Organizational Culture: Is Yours Congruent with What You Do?

My good friend Don Vandergriff sent me a terrific 167 page report from the Strategic Studies Institute  IS THE ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE OF THE U.S. ARMY CONGRUENT WITH THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENTOF ITS SENIOR LEVEL OFFICER CORPS? I spent this week reading the report and found it to be outstanding and although focused on the Army and the changes they need to make as an organization, it also relates in my view to what we in law enforcement and security need to focus on in our efforts to prepare for in the ever changing environment. we work in. In fact, If you are a member of the private sector business world, or any other organization will benefit from reading this study. Why? This fast paced world demands timely decisions and prudent actions in solving complex problems. The checklist or canned response approach is no longer good enough.

The Culture of TheStatus Quo

The Army believe that they operate on a day-to-day basis in an organization whose culture is characterized by:

  • an overarching desire for stability and control,
  • formal rules and policies,
  • coordination and efficiency,
  • goal and results oriented, and
  • Hard-driving competitiveness.

The Culture of Innovation and Initiative

However, sharply highlighting a pronounced lack of congruence between what they believe the Army’s culture to be and what it should be (based on their development as future strategic leaders), the respondents also indicated that the Army’s culture should be that of a profession, which emphasizes:

  • flexibility and discretion,
  • participation,
  • human resource development,
  • innovation and creativity,
  • risk-taking,
  • long-term emphasis on professional growth, and
  • The acquisition of new professional knowledge and skills.

Sounds very familiar does it not? We in law enforcement and security fit these characterizations as well. We preach decentralization and initiative but often get bogged down in this type of culture. So we like the Army talk allot about the way it should be and what we need to do to be more effective in our mission but we seldom walk the talk.

“However, espoused values may not be based on prior cultural learning; therefore they may be incongruent with the organi­zation’s actual theories-in-use. Theories-in-use are those values that actually govern behavior. It is postulated that a lack of congru­ence between espoused values and theories-in-use can inhibit individual commitment and consequently im­pair organizational performance.”

… “As previously discussed, espoused values are those values that an organization publicly acknowledges and supports, while theories-in-use are those underlying values which are less vis­ible and which actually govern behavior. For example, an organization may publicly state that it supports individual initiative, while concurrently refusing to promote individuals whose initiative resulted in fail­ure.”

If  we hope to adapt in a timely manner to the problems and threats we face be it, violence  on the street, the workplace, a college or university setting, any setting where security is an issue, we must prepare our organizations and develop a culture of adaptation. There must be a balanced approach of policies and procedures and coactive innovation and initiative obviously applied accordingly based on simple and complicated issues  to the complex and chaotic problems and threats we face. 

A coactive approach to understanding at a much deeper level which problems we can policy and procedure ourselves to a solution and which problems we must innovate and depend upon discretion, rapid decision making and initiative  to solve. We know the value of adaptability as we discuss it often in our professions but the key is in applying it. Applying it in how we lead, train and work in our environment if we are to really make a difference.

Be sure to take the time to read this report. You will find it both very interesting and useful.

Stay oriented!

Fred