organizational cultureThere is plenty of conversation (and quite a bit of confusion) around the topic of organizational culture these days. I’m glad there is conversation because culture is a critical lever in the results you get. When your culture is good, it buoys results. The opposite is also true. Part of the confusion stems from how we define and look at culture. In truth, you don’t have one organizational culture – you have two.

Two Cultures?

If your organization has more than 10-15 people you don’t have one culture, you have two. What are they?

  • The macroculture: the organizational culture (whether 20 or 20,000 employees).
  • The microculture: the culture of an organizational subgroup – your team, project, group, or location.

While you may have never thought about this, you have experienced it over and over. Walk into a different department in your organization. Does it feel different? Do people interact differently? Do they have a slightly (or maybe more significantly) different way of doing things? In this case, though both departments are in the same organization, the microcultures are different.

If you have been into different restaurants that are a part of a franchised chain (often with some pretty clear macro cultural components), you’ve seen differences in feeling, energy, and approach, haven’t you?

Why They Both Matter

The macroculture matters in many ways, including talent attraction, perception, branding, overall productivity, and many other reasons. But individuals don’t solely live in the macroculture. They also live in the microculture of their team.

Since culture is “the way we do things around here,” the specifics of that always show up locally. How your team communicates, how your team collaborates, how cohesive your team is, and how your leader leads all matter to engagement, satisfaction, productivity, and tons more.

There is another reason your microculture is so important…

What You Can Do About Them

Unless you are a senior leader, your ability to influence the macroculture directly and immediately is small. And the bigger the organization, the smaller it becomes. Thinking about and working on organizational culture is the responsibility of executives and senior leaders, even though they can’t and shouldn’t try to change it alone. Additionally, senior leaders need to realize that the culture they think they have might not be the one that exists everywhere. Or that everyday is like the day they show up for a visit. This is why secret shopping services exist and how executives became stars of Undercover Boss.

But whomever you are, whatever your role, your ability to influence and impact the microculture always exists. Culture will always change over time. You can influence it immediately and directly with your questions, actions, and expectations.

Senior leaders who recognize the existence of both cultures can set the organization up for conversations about blending, matching, and aligning these cultures, and then provide the support, training, and resources to strengthen both cultures, which adds value to the success of the organization.


Do you want to improve the design, interaction, and culture of your team? Want to figure out how to create the levels of communication, collaboration and cohesion that will create great results? These are the questions our new book, The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Team For Everyone’s Success, can help you answer – wherever your team members work.

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  1. 2 Cultures in an organization is so true and very functional. The challenge is keeping the 2 cultures in sync and functional to the overall success of the business.

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