On Thursday, February 22, LNS Research hosted the webcast, “Harness Organizational Culture for EHS Performance and Operational Excellence.” The presentation examined how to assess culture in relation to safety and operational performance, and strategies to foster culture and operationalize management systems to support organizational objectives.
Q1: Can you clarify the definition you gave of organizational culture as, “The way we do things around here?” This seems like an unworkable, top-down approach where employees are told what to do and how to do it.
A1: The phrase doesn’t mean organizational culture is based on a dictatorial “my way or the highway” management approach. It means the sum of all the factors influencing culture will result in how things are done on a day-to-day basis. The resulting organizational culture may be a positive one with great employee engagement and a well-respected top leadership team. Or, it may be a toxic work environment full of distrust and bad performance. “The way we do things around here” is the output of culture, not the input that determines it. Culture boils down to the collective norm of how an individual makes decisions and behaves during their daily work.
A2: Our latest EHS 4.0 research, published last quarter, provides a framework for using technology to manage EHS better in the Digital Transformation journey. That’s not to say that EHS 4.0 is all about technology, but rather how technology innovations like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), mobile apps, and Big Data analytics can be used to impact the people, process and culture dimensions of EHS management, and improve the EHS and operational risk management system. You can access EHS 4.0 research - eBook, infographic, spotlight, and webcast here.
Q3: What do you mean by the recommendation, “Rely on your management systems" to change the organizational culture?
A3: Culture is shaped and sustained by what work gets done, and how it gets done. Management systems define the “to be” state the organization is trying to achieve regarding safety and environmental performance, or any other relevant business domain such as quality, asset management and so forth. They also define the policies, procedures, and programs the organization is attempting to implement, and how it should be applied. So, if you have an effective management system, it will drive the culture and results the organization is striving for. Management system standards have explicit requirements that will influence culture in areas like strategy, leadership, and communications.
Q4: Is it fair to assume that to have a culture change, a suitable environment should be created in the form of systems and processes?
A4: Yes, that’s a fair assumption. Of course, it’s possible to achieve culture change without having a supportive environment with well-defined and consistently executed systems and processes. But in a complex industrial business environment, it would probably be an uphill battle. Even if the plan to change culture succeeds, it would be hard to sustain without the supportive foundation of processes and systems. Critical elements for successful culture change include a clear executive vision for change, business alignment to strategic objectives, management systems, disciplined program execution, measurement of business outcomes, regular management review, and actions to drive continuous improvement. Lack of a systematic approach aligned with the business makes culture change difficult.
Q5: How does technology help sustain organizational culture?
A5: Although software and technology aren’t a panacea, it is key to instilling and re-enforcing culture in daily operations. Information management systems help break down the organizational and data silos that undermine performance. Technology helps integrate various parts of the business and promotes collaboration to strengthen the Operational Excellence platform. Analytics capabilities provide information and insights needed for employee engagement, management review, and performance improvement. Essentially, technology can help to operationalize management systems, and in the process, help operationalize culture.