The Myth of Organizational Culture

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

There is no such thing as organizational culture there is only people culture

I am curious to explore the difference between a role and a person, an organization and its people. This difference can be illustrated by considering a familiar scenario: What is the culture of the White House? I am suggesting here that it is not the White House that has a culture – the White House is an institution that has a purpose. Those who live and work at the White House represent the people of the White House and these people, how they work together and how they are together define the culture of the White House as an institution. A different set of people will result in a different culture, even if the institution remains the same in its purpose. Individuals may have an influence on the appearance of an institution or organization and depending on the governance structure, also have an influence on the purpose. And yet, the culture is an attribute defined by a group of people, not an institution or an organization. This insight may influence our understanding of how a culture may be changed. Could it be that cultural change is much more about changes that take place at the individual level, rather than those that can be master-minded at the organizational level? Let me attempt to reflect this by considering our lessons learned through the cultural change at Business School Lausanne.

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Keeping ourselves effective in turbulent times

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The following is a guest post from Penny Walker, author of Working Collaboratively: A Practical Guide to Achieving More.

For people leading sustainability, environment or CSR in their organisations, these are turbulent times.

The political and legal context is shifting and uncertain.  Assumptions that we will see a gradual ratcheting up of environmental and social standards are in doubt: no sooner had some of these ideas become mainstream than along comes a populist backlash which threatens to sweep that new orthodoxy away.  The business case is harder to make.

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Opinions or Alternative Facts?

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

Here we are in 2017; and at the beginning of the New Year.  Last year, as a consequence of the USA presidential election, many in this country and around the world tried to grasp the concept of “post-truth”.  It is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “debates framed by appeals to emotions rather than facts”. And now, before even a month has passed, we are confronted with the claimed presidential authority of “alternative facts”.  While both “post truth” and “alternative facts” claims have been scorned in the political realm, haven’t we all experienced similar dilemmas within our organizations?  In this blog, I will reflect on the importance of differentiating between opinions and facts, in order to tackle organizational issues with clarity.

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And suddenly, we were living in a new culture… How did that happen?

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

How do companies grow into new cultures? Can a given culture be changed? How palpable is a culture anyway? And if you wanted to change it, how would you go about it? These are questions that occupy Organizational Development consultants and researchers alike. At Business School Lausanne (BSL) we have decided to prototype new forms of organizations as a way to offer a living case study to our students. For the end of the year, I would like to offer a self-reflective piece about our organizational journey, from my own personal (and obviously, limited) perspective.   Continue reading

Rethinking product stewardship as an essential business strategy

The following is a guest post from Helen Lewis, author of new book Product Stewardship in Action: The Business Case for Life-Cycle Thinking.

Product stewardship, also referred to as extended producer responsibility (EPR) is the idea that everyone involved in the manufacture, distribution or consumption of a product shares responsibility for the environmental and social impacts of that product over its life cycle.

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When Values Collide

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

In looking back over the blogs Katrin and I wrote this year, I noted that “change” is a theme connecting most if not all of them. We discussed the urgent need for change, various levels of change, forces that propel change as well as those that hinder it. We examined the need to understand our own change-related assumptions. We offered suggestions for how to become change experts. And last month Katrin described an engagement with a client where she facilitated a change process. All along we have acknowledged that change is difficult. This month I will reflect on how recent change-related challenges have confronted me personally and what I have learned as a result.

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ARSP as a diversity of perspectives

Following the release of the latest edition of The Annual Review of Social Partnerships (ARSP), Associate Editor, Jill Bogie, discusses the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in building a more sustainable future.

One of the reasons that ARSP is such a great resource is the diversity of perspectives that it offers and the huge variety of subject areas where cross-sector partnerships (CSPs) are applied. From this variety, one of the notable themes in this year’s issue is multi-stakeholder collaboration. The editors of the Publications Section observe that there is a growing interest in the governance of such arrangements. It is a topic that is covered in each of the five sections of ARSP.

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