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Defining business culture and values

MLA & AWI July 5, 2024

Culture refers to the demonstrable values, beliefs and behaviours that determine how an organisation’s employees and management interact and perform. Values provide guidelines for how people in the business behave. They guide decision making and help people make choices that reflect the desired brand image the business. Values: 

  • are culturally acquired 
  • are difficult to measure 
  • determine your goals 
  • come from many different sources. 

Business owners directly influence the behaviour in and the culture of their business. Teams that uphold similar values offer a strategic fit in a business and can be described as a high-performance team with good ‘cultural fit’.  

Cultural fit is a concept that can be hard to define, but everyone knows when it is missing. When organisational culture aligns with business strategy it accelerates growth, improves employee engagement and productivity, reduces risk and builds the business. But when it doesn’t align, it can stand in the way of success. 

If employee values are inconsistent with the values of the business owners, poor business culture can develop, which can be difficult to change. It takes just one person to create a poor culture. 

It is important to avoid confusing personal similarities with cultural fit. It is also important to ensure a recruitment strategy is inclusive and equitable. Hiring or working with service providers with a strong cultural fit can improve employee satisfaction, engagement, productivity and retention. 

A shared sense of purpose across a business can be shaped by values and goals that are important to the entire business team. Values and goals help people in the business remain focused on what they want out of the business. Topic 2 and Tool 1.4 in MMFS Module 1 Plan for success offers more information on exploring business values and goals.  

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from management consultant Peter Drucker. It highlights that the most perfect strategy will come undone when the culture is bad. This frequently plays out with sporting teams where the perfect game plan combined with a poor culture is the difference between winning and losing.  

It is important to communicate the values and culture of the business with the whole team.  

Tool 4.1 provides more information about defining a values and culture statement.