Sunday 15 September 2013

Organisational culture, CSR strategies & ethics

Yesterday I hypothesised that to inspire leaders to support sustainable and responsible actions these actions needed to be linked to organisational survival. That is so long as someone felt they had a choice they might opt for a different less sustainable and responsible one.

In the blog I suggested that to use 'survival' as the motivation for support for a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy would require understanding the organisational culture.

One model I think enables a better exploration of organisational culture and the potential areas to be considered is Johnson, Scholes and Whittington's cultural web as shown above.

The cultural web is a means of documenting the 'taken for granted assumptions' of an organisation. It's this culture that drives strategy and therefore it's this culture that you can use to get support for the CSR policies you're wanting to implement.
  • Stories - what stories are continually told about and within the organisation, who are the heroes and the villains, how is success defined, what about failure, what character traits do they support, what character traits do they disapprove of? How can these patterns hidden within the stories told by employees be used as you develop your strategy for CSR? 
  • Symbols - status symbols, language and jargon are all characteristics of this element of the cultural web. Use of appropriate language and threat of loss of status may play a part in a CSR strategy. 
  • Power structures - which individuals, departments and business units are the most powerful. Stakeholder mapping will help you understand how to best manage the complex relationships that exist within your organisation and how best to facilitate support for your strategy.
  • Routines and rituals - if you try to implement a strategy that is counter to 'the way we do things round here' you're increasing the chances of failure. How can you support 'the way we do things'  in your strategy, its implementation and how you sell it to others? 
  • Control Systems - what do the measurement and reward systems in place say about the organisation? How can your strategy support these? 
  • Organisational structures - you can spend a lot of time winning over managers who have no say what so ever in the decision to support, or otherwise, your strategy. I'm not saying talking to other managers isn't important, especially if their support will be needed to implement any strategy. However you do need to focus your effort on those making the decision. 
Like any model I suspect the benefit when using the cultural web comes in identifying the one thing that's been ignored whilst developing the strategy. That is we're likely to have considered many of the above unconsciously without referenced to these six headings. Although we may view them differently when using 'survival' as the criteria for obtaining motivation.

Would undertaking an analysis of the cultural web for your organisation identify alternate means of obtaining support for your strategies? As it will certainly be easier to understand if this works when applied to a real situation do please let me know how you get on. 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change in procurement - inside and out

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