Are your clients eroding your culture?

I’ve been reading quite a bit about encouraging or growing certain types of culture in organisations. Cultures which promote continuous improvement or fostering greater empowerment with the organisation. However it seems that one vital facet of the culture of your organisation is always omitted. That of your clients (I’m speaking from an agency perspective here, although this may also be applicable in other contexts).

Much of what is written about changing working cultures is about the internal world of the organisation, but this is only one facet of what makes an organisation. An organisation is made up of many complex interactions and at these points of interaction is where culture appears. For example: how we behave to one another and the shorthands we use. These unthinking actions are the cultural life of the organisation.

Our clients are another cultural interaction point. The way they interact with us can have amplifying or cooling effects on the cultures we are trying to grow. We should pay attention to how a client behaviour may permeate down into our organisation as this behaviour may erode the work we are doing to embed certain values. For instance trust and transparency. Perhaps the client embraces our new way of thinking and reinforces our work culture. Or perhaps more likely they are mystified as we begin to talk in a language alien to them and reject our new behaviours.

So when we look to our organisation in terms of a culture change, or new values we want to adopt, perhaps we should spend some time thinking about how this will effect our clients. Work out strategies for bringing them on the journey with us, or even no longer working with clients that hold us back from our wider goals.

Our organisational growth (wether we like it or not) is subject to factors both within and outside of our control. We should therefore attempt to ensure that the direction of growth is towards the light and is not stunted by unwelcome or unperceived factors.

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