A Tale of Two Corporate Cultures

Workplace culture can often seem like an intangible when describing the character of a company. What does it look like when an office’s culture fosters creativity, inspires competition, or promotes productivity? Due to the amorphous nature of it, workplace culture can get forgotten when examining productivity at a company, yet it plays a vital role. Below are two companies on opposite sides of the country that are experiencing dips in productivity based on their cultures and a few tips to help you avoid the same pitfalls.
A company based in the Pacific Northwest had developed a culture that was true to the region; polite and inclusive. Managers across the company had a variety of projects to work on, and in the interest of including anyone who may be affected by those projects, they invited everyone who could have been tangentially related to their meetings. Those who were invited felt they could not decline invitations or question how necessary their presence was at them, so they would invariably attend. The result was that a lot of company time and productivity ended up wasted for fear of being impolite.

To avoid wasted time in meetings, empower employees to question whether they are needed at meetings and decide for themselves. After spending time with this client, we created a forum for meeting feedback so that these employees could make known what worked well (and what didn’t), freeing up time to get their work done.

On the opposite side of the country, in the Northeast, a company was battling the opposite side of the spectrum of inclusion. In line with the regional culture, this company’s managers were swept up in the busy atmosphere, becoming hyper-focused on their projects and often forgetting colleagues. While focus on the work is important for productivity, so too is collaboration with other managers that may be affected. For a project that affected three different areas of the organization, three managers were maintaining three separate databases that tracked the same information. The result was that each group believed they were at different points along the track to finishing the project, creating confusion and an incomplete picture of project progress.

To reduce duplicated efforts, invite department heads to cross-departmental meetings so that they may collaborate. Once the department heads involved in the project met, we were able to create a single location where data was accurate and up-to-date based on project needs. If this sounds like your organization, this approach is a great jumping off point to get your teams re-aligned.

The issues these two companies encountered illustrates that company culture truly can effect productivity. However, each company’s solution shows that identifying and rectifying these issues is not universal. Keeping connected to your colleagues beyond simply inviting them to meetings can help you tune in to whether they feel productive; create space for colleagues to provide feedback on the quality of the meetings they attend. If you are unsure whether there are duplicated efforts for a project, talk to the project manager to see which other groups may be involved. Discovering the appropriate level of communication for your company’s culture is key to unlocking potential and improving productivity.