Culture: from ‘dirty word’ to strategic asset

Culture: from ‘dirty word’ to strategic asset

Pecan Partnership has recently celebrated its tenth birthday. As part of this, we’ve been reflecting on the company’s early months and how much has changed. You can read more about this in our insight, looking back on 10+ years of Pecan. 

One particular reflection was about how the word ‘culture’ was perceived back then, and what that meant for how Pecan positioned its services. Pecan Director, Ella Overshott, recalled how there was some nervousness about talking about organisational culture with prospective clients. Some organisations were reticent to see their challenges through a culture lens; others saw culture as a bit ‘fluffy’. And for others, just the word culture was something be avoided: “don’t mention the ‘C’ word”. 

Roll forward ten years and culture is rightly being seen as a key driver of business performance and outcomes. And Pecan is happily shouting about its purpose to create cultures where people love to work, and customers love to do business.  

So, what’s changed? How has organisational culture made the shift from ‘dirty word’ to strategic asset? 

Culture’s new dawn 

Much has changed in the world of work over the last ten years. In this blog we summarise the three key shifts that have helped put culture firmly on the agenda, from Board-level to team-level. 

Firstly, when Pecan was first being established, some organisations saw culture as a by-product of success. If an organisation was performing well against its key success measures (for example, revenue, profit and market share), then surely it would follow that the organisation would enjoy a great culture?  

Nowadays, it’s clear that – whilst performance and culture often go hand-in-hand – it’s actually more likely to be culture that enables success, rather than vice versa. 

Secondly, discussions about organisational culture ten years ago were often seen from a perspective of deficit: organisations with difficult cultures, or cultural challenges. As a result, culture interventions were primarily about ‘fixing’ broken cultures and mitigating the effects of cultural problems.  

By contrast, much of what we do now is about helping organisational cultures go from ‘good to great’, by building on what’s already working and making it even better. 

Finally, it feels like the increased emphasis on culture is part of a broader movement towards the humanising of work, which was only just beginning when Pecan was first established. In many organisations, Human Resources has become People Experience, or some variant on this. And culture – as in, the ways in which people interact, work together and get stuff done – has become as important as processes and technologies.  

Although there’s still further to go for many organisations, it’s evident that culture has claimed its rightful place in the agendas and headspace of senior executives and leaders. 

What’s next for culture? 

We’ve recently shared our reflections on Pecan’s next phase, including the things our Directors are most looking forward to and the developments they expect to see in the world of organisational culture.  

But whatever else happens, culture is no longer a dirty word, and Pecan will keep working to help clients make the most of their organisational culture as a strategic asset. If you or your organisation could benefit from our support to do this, get in touch. 

Green Speech Bubble made out of Post-it-Notes

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash 

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