Organizational Culture

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Organizational culture influences many aspects of work life. Workplace cultures that are grounded in strong and formally articulated values and modes of behavior define an organization. Well-communicated values influence employee behavior and drive how employees relate with all stakeholders within the organization—from co-workers, management and members of the board to clients, shareholders and the community at large. When organizations seek to change their culture, HR—as change agent and educator of the change process—plays a significant role in this endeavor. In addition, HR's role is both up front and in the background, by leading, supporting, coaching, encouraging, measuring and evaluating the change during the process and over time. The following three articles highlight examples of why organizations make significant cultural changes and point to the resulting challenges and benefits. There are two organizations that I am familiar with and will briefly discuss how their organizational culture changes have affected each company: American Express- Cultural change at American Express began a few years ago when the company began taking a close look at the organization's values. The company's original set of organizational values was developed in 1990. By 2000, 75% of the company's 78,000 employees had not been with American Express from that early period. The CEO, Ken Chenault, wanted employees to be inspired, stretch and perform at the height of their abilities. Rather than using traditional methods to "solve a problem," the organization chose a positive path, selecting the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) theory, developed in 1987 as a way to shift the way people approach change. Based on the AI theory, American Express grounded its organizational culture initiatives on four stages: 1) discovery; 2) dream; 3) design; and 4) destiny. Over nine months, the company conducted more than 30 focus groups with hundreds of employees to address fundamental questions about...
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