Tuesday, 31 May 2011

organisational culture

not this kind of culture...

I spent Tuesday at the Volunteer Development Scotland board meeting in Stirling - VDS is Scotland's Centre for Excellence in volunteering and leads the way in informing and modernising approaches to volunteering policy, enhancing practice and improving the quality of the volunteering experience for the people of Scotland. I really enjoy being a part of the board - yes, the decisions are sometimes challenging and in the current economic climate everything comes with a bit more pressure these days - but the enthusiasm and focus of the team at VDS is something I enjoy being around.

In previous meetings we have used the term 'form follows function' to help us through our decision making and today the Chair coined another - lean, mean, fast, flexible. 'Mean' is not us being horrible to one another - more that any organisation needs to be able to focus on its aims and objectives and not be distracted from that path. I like these two phrases. The first reminds us that while structures are important, they are only important so far as they enable us to carry out and achieve our aims. The second phrase reminds us that delivery needs to be reactive and proactive to the environment around us and that there is no room for excess in anything that we do.

In the hands of other organisations these phrases could be seen as negative or reasons to take actions that would otherwise be unpalatable without a sound bite to cover them off. It is interesting to me that I don't feel this with the Board or team at VDS - that behind the words is a philosophy and ethos that is about always keeping the volunteer at the centre of our work. How do you explain this though? This kind of 'feeling' strays into that fuzzy world of 'culture' that many organisations struggle to define or achieve. It has made me reflect on the organisations and cultures I come across in other parts of my working and personal life - the NHS, Diabetes UK [and my amazing team in Scotland], the Scottish Government etc.

It has also prompted me to go and look out my old MBA notes on culture and have a think about the different kinds and how they are generated - and the leadership qualities required for each one - combined with what I saw at VDS and experience elsewhere and see what I can learn from that. I think it could form a future post...

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