January 2017 Business SCAN
When looking to embed high performance and change, and improve areas such as creativity and innovation, there are important distinctions for leaders to make between climate and culture.
Research by January’s thought leader Andy Wilkins suggests that – even when successful – culture can take nine years or more to implement and embed. Climate improvements, on the other hand, can be implemented and measured within seconds.
Important distinctions between climate and culture:
- Culture is a broader concept than climate. To understand culture, it may be necessary to look at an entire organisation. Whereas if you attend to climate, it is much more situational and relates to individuals and their perceptions of a project, group or division, or other units of analysis.
- Culture is descriptive, meaning that one culture and its underlying assumptions and values may be no better or worse than any other culture. Climate is normative, meaning that we are looking for environments that are better suited to certain things. With climate, the more we are able to perceive certain dimensions, the better. It is quantifiable. Climate is measurable and worth measuring.
- Climate is distinct from culture in that it is more easily observable and more amenable to improvement efforts. It enables us to act our way into a new way of thinking. Climate is improvable.
Sources: Isaksen, S.G. and Lauer, K.J. (2002) The Climate for Creativity and Change in Teams, Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002; Wilkins, A. and Stuart-Cox, K. (2013) Context, Climate and Culture, Perspective LLP; Wilkins, A. and Stuart-Cox, K. (2013) About social context: climate, culture, context, work environment, Perspective LLP
Using this distinction between culture and climate, assess whether the climate in particular areas or projects could be usefully improved.
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