Developing a BAM Company Culture Part 2: Aligning a Company

Read Part 1: Developing a Company Culture: Foundational Principles

Since the leaders and staff of a business usually come from different worldviews, with differing values and beliefs, it is quite likely that alignment of behaviours and practices will not be automatic! This is especially true of a BAM company that is operating cross-culturally and with language barriers among staff.

The company leaders may wish they didn’t need policies and systems because they want everyone to be aligned on vision and values. However, very often we are not. Newcomers come in without understanding of the company vision and values, established staff still struggle to be on the same page, simply because they have different cultural norms, expectations and learned behaviours. So how do I as the leader draw us through cultural change? How do I help people adopt our ways?

Going Through Cultural Change

It is helpful to remember that you are working for behavioural change, but that current behaviours or attitudes stem from already held principles, that are in turn rooted in values and beliefs.

There are three stages of cultural alignment:

1. Dependent culture

I will obey your rule but I don’t agree with it. This rule or practice is not intrinsic to me, I comply because I have to, because there is some external incentive or penalty.

2. Independent culture

I will obey this rule because I get this. I understand how it’s good for me and I commit to it. I am not bothered about my peers or colleagues

3. Interdependent culture

I will obey this rule because I get it and I see how it benefits us all as a company. I will commit to it and I will help others understand and commit to it too. We are all going to do it because we value the same thing.

Take workplace safety as an example. The goal is to minimise accidents and make our workplaces safe for workers. The value behind our workplace safety systems is a caring for and valuing people, and the hoped for outcome is safe company practices.

First of all be clear with your vision for a safe workplace and the values behind that vision. Repeat the vision and make it visible. Decide the policy (what) and systems (how) which tell the company what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. Introduce systems that instruct people how to comply with the policy and evaluate whether they are or not. Foster the adoption of the policy through the 4Cs: creating momentum through active leadership, communication, training so that people are able to comply, and enforcing through controls.

In the first stage of cultural change, a staff member may comply with a health and safety policy because there will be a negative consequence if they don’t. As leaders continue to repeat vision and values and foster the adoption through the 4Cs (see Part 1), staff should begin to understand why health and safety directives are valuable and comply because it is good for them. Eventually, you hope that your staff will reach stage three where there is an interdependent culture of care for one another and for oneself, creating a safe workplace as people actively look out for one another.

The Dangers of Dilution

What happens if you add one person to a company? You are likely to be able to align them with your culture, or they will eventually leave or fired. What about adding 10 people, or 30, or 70 over a short period of time.

Company Culture GraphicIn chemistry, if you mix a weaker solution in with a stronger solution, you will have dilution. This can also happen with culture. A large influx of people that are not already aligned with your vision, values, principles and practices can dilute your company culture. BAM company culture can be completely changed by a sudden – or even slow and steady – influx of people that don’t share the original vision and values of the company.

As already mentioned in Part 1, secularisation is a very real threat to a BAM business as it grows larger. The faster a company grows, the greater the threat of culture dilution. The question of how to maintain and strengthen your company culture is something to seriously think about as you prepare to grow as a BAM company.

by David Skews and Jo Plummer


Don’t Miss Part 1: Developing a Company Culture: Foundational Principles

david skews profileDavid Skews, LLB is a businessperson called to mission. David obtained his law degree in 1981 and worked in the area of Health and Safety for over 20 years. In 1989, he established EDP Health Safety & Environment Consultants Ltd performing the role of CEO as he led EDP through sustained growth for over 25 years in both the UK and Asia. In 2004 he fully engaged in business as mission, as well as continuing to lead his business. Since then, David has focused his efforts into training entrepreneurs in Asia and Africa, and speaking internationally on business for good. He has also helped lead a mission agency through the process of embracing missional business. Today, he acts as a non-exec director for six successful BAM businesses and is part of the Advisory Board for BAM Global. David transitioned out of his business in 2015 and into new BAM fields! David is married to Lesley and is based in the UK.

David serves as a regular mentor for the Ask a BAM Mentor column and a member of the website Editorial Board.

Jo Plummer Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website. 

Join us on The BAM Review Blog this month as we explore the topics of ‘Legal and Tax Issues’ and ‘Developing a Company Culture’. Have your say on social media by following us on Twitter or Facebook.