A friend was asking about our office culture. Corporate? Family? Other?
While we’ve never been a family-owned business, we’ve always had a family feel. Probably that’s because we started small and have grown slowly and steadily over the years. So changes in corporate culture did not come in wrenching jerks and jolts that can occur with fast growth or sudden downsizing. But as my friend and I talked, one change came into focus.
We’ve always had office-wide celebrations and events. Sometimes I’ve joked, as I did in my book, that IVP stands for InterVarsity Parties. Every couple of weeks we have office meetings. Annually we have an office Christmas party in early December as well as an in-office potluck ten days afterward in which everyone gets to show off their culinary talents.
We also have a summer event each year alternating among a picnic, a minor league baseball game, outdoor Shakespeare and the like. The accounting department puts on a spread of delights for the whole office each Valentine’s Day. Farewell and retirement parties for long-time employees can get quite hilarious with skits and songs. And at the end of June the whole office pitches in for inventory. So of course we feed everyone afterward, spilling out of the lunchroom into the hallways and open spaces.
While these traditions continue, there has also been a subtle shift. Not bad. Just different. I’ve noticed that departments are taking more initiative to develop their own “party” traditions and patterns. It might be celebrating birthdays of those in the department. Perhaps a departmental Christmas party or, as our department has done, a mid-week break for popcorn with no business. Just a time to socialize.
While lots of people know each other well, we frankly are too big now for everyone to know everyone well. It’s only natural that we’d gravitate toward smaller units. The advantage is that we are able to maintain the family feel. But it also means that our culture and identity as a whole organization will shift subtly. That can happen consciously or unconsciously on our part.
Culture is never stagnant. Being aware of culture and cultivating culture consciously is essential to a healthy organization. As with any living thing, culture is always changing, unless it is dead.