Organizational culture: The system of shared values, symbols, beliefs and norms that exist within the organization; the features of everyday existence that give the organization its character and set it apart from other organizations.
As an anthropologist, I think of culture as the way we create solutions to shared problems. Consider how human groups have evolved over the millennia. Bands of individuals are repeatedly faced with common problems – how to communicate, how to divide labor, how to show respect for one another. Each group chooses to solve these problems in its own way. These unique combinations of beliefs and behaviors are what define human cultures.
At the organizational level, we can view culture in a similar way. Organizational culture evolves as its members find solutions to everyday problems. How do we interact with one another? How do we best serve our customers? How do we prioritize our time?
Your organization has a culture. Your people have been asking and answering these kinds of questions since day one, and in doing so, have established what is expected and accepted within your organization. The big question, then, is how is this culture driving behavior that serves your mission? Is it making your organization more effective or is it dragging you down?