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Culture Risks

Posted by Joey Sylvester on November 9, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Organizational Culture – Often Talked About But Seldom Understood

In this episode of PRIMA Podcasts, Joey Sylvester explores the concept of organizational culture and its relationship to risk management. He refers to the ISO 31000 Standard, which indicates that risk management should take human and cultural factors into account; it should be adapted and embedded within an organization's culture. While many individuals define organizational culture as 'group norms, values or rules of the game', Joey cites Dr. Edgar Schein's definition of organizational culture as the gold standard for a true understanding of the topic.

How Does Culture Relate to Risk Management and How to Apply It

Dr. Edgar Schein defines organizational culture as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems”. Unlike many other definitions, Dr. Schein's defition of culture, encompasses how it is formed. For example, an organization's culture may be formed at its inception, or may be shaped over time by one or more leaders. It then becomes embedded below the surface for a long time.

Iceberg Analogy

Joey references the popular iceberg analogy to demonstrate the external and underlying manifestations of the deeper and broader components of culture. Artifacts are the tip of the iceberg, and they include processes, language, patterns of dress, physical layout of a workplace, the way people talk to each other, etc. The Espoused Values are the strategies, philosophies and goals of the organization. The Underlying Assumptions are the values, beliefs, perceptions and thoughts about what is good or bad, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable. Assumptions usually start out as behavioral norms or compliance with the desires of the leader, and eventually become embedded in the organization's processes.

Strategies to Help Change Organizational Culture Within Your Entity

If you are trying to effect cultural change, Joey recommends asking the following questions, "Why is there a need for change?" "What are you trying to accomplish with changing the culture within your entity?" Then, look at some of the factors that may be inhibiting change or growth, and those that may enhance the culture that currently exists. Regardless of the reasons for change, it is important to understand that cultural change takes a lot of time, and is best achieved from the top-down.