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The impact of scaling-up on organisational culture.

I have been working with a company recently that is on the brink of scaling up.

They had grown before COVID-19, but had to reduce their employee numbers because of the pandemic impact, and are looking at moving back to the full team capacity.

However, every time they grow their team – they struggle with the fact that the culture changes and things don’t stay as they have always done.

The original culture was a family environment, everyone knew each other, and they would all have beers on a Friday afternoon.

Need a place to stay just ask?

Your car has broken down? No problems, just borrow mine.

The culture was warm, genuine, and authentic.

In this environment, that culture is achievable with 15 staff, not with 70.

It’s not that the culture with 70 is worse, it’s just different.

When a company is made up of a few employees who work together every day, maintaining organisational culture isn’t hard. But scaling means planning for how you want this culture to be sustained, just like you would with a business or strategic plan for any scaling approach.

Many businesses struggle with the process of scaling. Keeping the ethos, vision, and energy as it dissipates among more and more staff, it seems like it all becomes more diluted and murkier.

Things aren’t as they used to be, people are interpreting the intent differently and what used to work now does not. Handing over the reins to others to keep that culture alive can be challenging, especially if it doesn’t look like you thought it would.

Culture is often described as ‘the way we do things around here’ and the data says, the more employees aligned with organisational culture, the higher levels of performance are obtained.

One of the great things this company has done is to appoint a cultural ambassador for the cultural scaling.

This organisational cheerleader is tasked to:

  • communicate, prioritise and demonstrate the organisational culture built from Emotional Culture Deck Workshops (ECD),

  • Recognise and reward behaviours that align with the cultural change, and

  • Championing the team to be the makers of their own destiny when it comes to culture.

They are invested in what they create, so let them take charge and make it happen. For perspective, they understood and built their own organisational why, through the Emotional Culture Workshop programme, so let them be part of its evolution into the organisation.

Every person experiences organisational culture differently, and we are rarely taught how to coach and implement it, so I will be walking alongside this cultural ambassador to help imbed the change.

Consistency can be challenging with organisational scale, so seeing wins along the way and getting traction will be important to keep the conversations alive.

By acknowledging that even if the culture is different as you scale, as long as you have made a plan and are following that plan – then the culture will grow with you.

It might not always be beers on a Friday night, because maybe some of your team don’t drink? Or maybe that’s now not aligned with your culture. Tell the story, create a plan, and take people on the journey to understand the growth.

A start-up will always be different from an SME, an SME will look different from a large multi-national, prioritising culture through an organisational change will ensure your people are passionate to invest in the ride.

Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:


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