But while that sounds scary, if you’re an agile, dynamic software company you can actually use this adaptability to your advantage. It allows your entire organisation to innovate and act quickly on promising opportunities, instead of steadfastly holding on to old principles that might hold you back.
But, this needs to be managed with the utmost caution.
Because when your culture goes through a big change, it influences everything. We’re talking how you approach clients, the way you set financial targets, the way you make decisions, the way you prioritise, the way you reward people for their work, who you employ. The whole kit and kaboodle.
So, how can you steer your culture evolution the right way? Stick around and find out.
In this blog, we explore how founders, CEOs, and senior management can effectively manage one of the most common catalysts for culture change: subcultures.
If you want to jump headfirst into the full story on culture – check out the full eBook here.
Or if you want to learn more about subcultures – let’s dive in.
What are subcultures?
Subcultures are the mini-environments that organically form within your business in response to a change, shared interest or a wide-scale business change (like when a new company is acquired into a larger organisation).
That could be a location (think, Stockholm team vs Oslo team), age group (“Zoomers” vs “Boomers”), a function (a trend-focused marketing team vs a risk-averse finance team).
In general, subcultures are to be avoided because they dilute your overall culture, but as we explore below, there are some situations in which they can be extremely useful.
The tricky part is making sure the subculture doesn’t mutate into a counterculture – a discordant set of values that explicitly oppose your organisation’s larger culture.
The key is how you nurture subcultures. That’s the difference between one that makes a positive impact on your overall purpose and drive, and one that ends up becoming the cause of disciplinary meetings or bad business outcomes.
Five steps to protect positive, dynamic subcultures
Keeping your culture in check is a proactive task – here are five top tips from our experts to help you do it right.
Look for the subcultures within your organisation:If you’re aware of potential topics of conflict, offer anonymous channels for feedback and dialogue so they can flag any issues or conflicts so you can address them head on.
Talk to your employees regularly. Ask specific questions about their ongoing experience with the company and the groups within them.
Find out what bonds them together:As we’ve already said, subcultures are an organic and inevitable part of your growth as a business and can be very useful.
Say you’ve set up a new regional office. The demands on this satellite department could be very different from ‘the mothership’. They might need a more entrepreneurial mindset than your core business or more local knowledge. Allow this to evolve and your entire business will benefit. But if you’re starting to sense that a group of people are exclusionary or disengaged, their shared value might stem from something other than mere circumstance or a shared skill. For example, a mutual distaste for a new company policy – which they refuse to follow. Find out what it is that bonds the group together. Then focus on fixing the problem – not shutting the group down.
- Address relationship conflicts and issues before they become explosive:
If you find the cause of the subculture is a negative one – nip it in the bud.
Use conflict resolution strategies like mediation processes or team-building activities to foster understanding and resolve disagreements.
By addressing conflicts early on, you can prevent simmering tensions from escalating into full countercultural movements.
- Create more moments of connection:
If you’re starting to see exclusionary cliques form, get ahead of it. Initiate projects, initiatives, or committees – something that bridges departmental boundaries and helps your team build understanding, mutual respect, and a sense of unity. Or, take an even simpler step, and let teams work closer together, literally placing them side by side at the same desk if that’s possible.
- Rally around the core values:
Remind your team of the big picture, the main reason you’re all here.
If your organisation has articulated things like – why you do what you do, where you’re heading, and what makes you different from the competition – then you have a guiding light on what step to take next.
Your subcultures could be your strength
Remember, subcultures are not inherently negative or detrimental.
By nurturing positive subcultures in specific situations, you can give your business the cultural agility to drive creativity and innovation in all the work you do.
The key is understanding how your people connect to each other and to your business, the problems they face – and what the root cause of those problems is.
From here you can work out which subcultures will hold you back and which can move your business forward towards better outcomes.
Want to know more about building a winning company culture? Download our eBook here.