Organizational Artifacts

Organizational Culture

Modified Jug_by-NikitaAvvakumovCompanies carefully develop and vigorously safeguard their corporate logos and trademarks because the leaders understand the importance of brand. Logos speak for the company, what it makes, and stands for. Some trademarks become terms for common items, actions, or a range of products. Years ago people would Xerox a copy when they wanted a photocopy. Everybody had a Frigidaire even if their refrigerator was a Whirlpool. Today if you want to find out some piece of information, you Google it. Mention these names or show their logos and people create a vision of excellence in each of those industries. The trademark is the company and people know the values of each. Artifacts, such as logos and trademarks, are the visible representations of an organization’s culture and values. Other aspects of artifacts include customs, traditions, celebrations, buildings, and attire. Leaders can use artifacts to change behaviors of stakeholders to align with desired values.

Back in the day, families had coats of arms that contained symbols representing significance accomplishments from the past, the region of origin, and tools of their trades. Military organizations thrive on the symbolism of their unit crests. Good leaders understand the qualities shown in organizational symbols and use them to provide a common bond for all stakeholders. The symbols and traditions create a unification for all those involved in the organization.

The terms blue collar and white collar demonstrate how artifacts affect perception. Mention blue collar worker to someone and they probably envision a person working on a factory floor, working in an automotive repair facilities, or dumping waste cans after the office closes. White collar workers are viewed as those working in clean environments such as offices, hospitals, or laboratories. Blue collar workers have GEDs or high school diplomas. White collar workers have college degrees, have offices higher in the building relative to their perceived power. These statements are not necessarily true as there are plenty of people holding traditionally blue collar jobs with high levels of education, and many office workers with high school diplomas.

Ceremonies and customs are other artifacts that show the world and stakeholders where an organization places value. Organizations that toss their new employees to the wolves with little training demonstrate they value people less than accomplishment. Those who celebrate small successes show they care when people succeed and understand that when an individual succeeds, everyone in the organization is better because of the achievement.

A smart leader seeking to change an organization’s culture can use artifacts to help that change occur. He can point to the symbols of a logo to talk about the important values of the organization. He describes how certain behaviors emulate the organizational values while others detract. He eliminates ceremonies celebrating negative achievements that belittle and embarrass, and replaces them with rituals observing feats supporting desired behaviors. Awards for compliance with desired organizational values serve as visual representations of success and encourage others to model similar behavior. Employee of the month is one example, but a creative leader finds other ways to also provide visual cues.

Understanding organizational culture is a critical leadership skill. Knowing how symbols, ceremonies, and traditions creates certain behaviors enabling leaders to change artifacts to encourage behaviro changes. If something runs counter to a professed value, it is shed. Leaders adopt new artifacts that support behaviors aligned with desired values. Take a look around your work place. What do the dress, visible symbols, behaviors, and traditions say to someone walking in for the first time about what is valued? Change those that subvert what you want others to think of you and your organization, and replace them with artifacts that show the character you seek to achieve.


Photo Credit

Nakita Avvakumov https://www.flickr.com/photos/drnik/2857646470/in/photolist-5mwbJJ-6bXTAW-cWNuEG-ogb2uP-6bXUYC-74auQQ-bjUuLa-dfPbpg-BsuyfJ-8eCvnt-ogstHx-dMZSDL-2A6cFN-E1JUTs-67mS86-ATUtr2-9euKg7-uLhc-57xfTs-Bz4NEy-PZP2PQ-5V9AWA-c7hjWf-wMfExB-QvqyfS-MGFg37-N6NaAj-PZP3zh-NncCAS-zEmsYi-QkEA9Q-ManQ54-N2jNX8-KdZwbq-MCHQ11-MEWtdK-S35rzb-S35rnC-QU9tXK-S35rfd-ExDU2b-622Hms-S5FNVK-RXKgGM-T2GiWi-kHLLyN-RoViju-qyFLP4-r2BLQg-6iE95L Creative Common License

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