It’s no secret that organisational culture affects business. From productivity to employee retention and talent attraction, resilience to company growth, it’s now firmly entrenched as a key leadership agenda item. More commonly this is because it’s also a risk factor, which is to say, if it’s not working it puts everything else in jeopardy.
Organisational culture is of increasing importance because it affects internal projects, and with digital transformation on the cards for almost every business, such efforts need not only to get off the ground but land successfully, too.
Yet in Australia, AU$139 million is wasted out of every $1 billion spent on such projects.1 In fact, it’s estimated to be $40 million more than the average loss of other countries. While part of this can be attributed to companies not knowing exactly what it is they want to achieve with a transformation project, it’s also increasingly being recognised that some of this has to do with not just organisational culture, but project culture.
In assessing the patterns of thoughts, beliefs, values and actions within an organisation, it is possible to see the links between an organisation’s culture and meeting its strategic objectives. How a company sets itself up to achieve its goals is entwined with how it acts day-to-day.
But subcultures also exist within organisations, be they across jurisdictions, business lines or even teams. Nowhere is this more obvious than in transformation projects. Project culture is different to org culture, and because of this it is easy to overlook if leadership think that, on the whole, they have culture perfected. But project teams can be different.
For one thing, project teams are often set up as temporary groups, created solely for the purpose of implementing change. At different points in the journey of the project, their makeup alters, resourced by teammates, contractors and suppliers who come and go (and for whom, given their casual nature, there is often less cultural investment made). Their success is measured on delivering an agreed end point and more often than not, the project that they are tasked with implementing is happening a lot faster than other organisation-wide change.
In short, they are microcosms not indicative of the way the organisation behaves as a whole. Yet they have immense impact when it comes to the success or failure of a project, which in turn has an immense impact on the success of the business. Therefore, in the same way that organisational culture can create corporate risk, so too can project culture.
In order to understand the culture of a project, we have identified eight behavioural themes that businesses should focus on when attempting to drive positive project outcomes.
The most basic question leaders can ask in relation to their organisation’s culture is: do I hear ‘yes we can’ or ‘not this again’ when projects, change or transformation are mentioned? If the response is the latter, then it’s time to take a closer look at what needs to change. Projects can be challenging enough without swimming against a tide of negative sentiment.
When the behaviours of the team — and its leadership — are aligned with the desired outcomes of the organisation and the project, the risk of culture undermining business goals is far reduced.
For business then, an emphasis should be made towards reinforcing these eight dimensions with positive behaviours. Effort should also go towards ensuring that project culture aligns with organisational culture — as much as possible, projects should be an extension of the organisation, with the same values and behaviours.
It will go a long way towards setting up and maintaining an inclusive project culture that will in turn, support the successful delivery of a transformation project and the goals of the business itself.
For more information on addressing the hiccups in your transformational change efforts, visit PwC Australia’s Transformation Assurance site.
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