There are many different ingredients that combine to define what makes up the culture of an organisation.
A typical list might include:
• The values of the organisation
• Beliefs that are commonly held across the organisation
• The behaviours that are prevalent
• Assumptions that people make about what is acceptable or unacceptable
• Stories and myths about events that have shown what the culture is like
• The rituals and routines that people carry out to demonstrate and reinforce their understanding and acceptance of the culture
• Symbols that overtly demonstrate what the culture is
• The unwritten rules – those things that you only know if you are part of the culture, and make you feel that you do, or don’t belong
• The language that people use.
How might such aspects – in practice – translate to a person-centred culture, and how would you measure them? Let’s take a closer look a small selection.
The people United Response supports are at the core of everything we do. You can see this in the way that the services and support we provide are designed around the individual, and how all staff work to provide the support the individual needs and wants.
Relationships are central to how people work together, and diversity is welcomed and celebrated. Creativity, enabling appropriate risk taking, partnership, listening, and continual review and learning are all prized.
A person-centred organisation culture has an agreed way of working that reflects the values it holds, and it is easy to observe that the values are lived out in what people do. For example, that managers encourage staff to ensure that the people supported have as much choice and control over their lives as possible, and, furthermore, that staff work in a consistently person-centred way to achieve this.
Stories and myths
Stories are widely used across the organisation to support values and beliefs, and explain to others why we work in the way that we do. Stories come first hand from people we support or their support staff, and talk about the achievements, contributions and aspirations of the people we support.
A person-centred organisation culture has processes for widespread storytelling, which is encouraged by managers and leaders, and fires the process of knowledge sharing, and explains the actions, progress and successes of the organisation.
The key to ensuring person-centredness
To be successful, the leaders in an organisation must ensure constancy. Whatever the characteristics of the culture in question, there must be alignment between what is being said and what is happening in the organisation. Mixed messages will derail the whole process.
At United Response, one way that this is encapsulated, is through the use of the Way We Work diagram, which clearly shows the people we support at the core of what the organization does. It summarises the critical aspects of organisation culture, behaviour and approach on one page, and has been a fundamental tool in communicating and reinforcing the messages of person-centred practices.
With dedication and the will to succeed, any organisation can begin the journey towards a person-centred culture. The rewards of such an approach will soon be felt by service users, staff and the organisation as a whole.
Stephen Stirk, Director Operations Support and Development.
This blog is part of a series on the topic of person-centred organisations and approaches. It is also tied in to the release of Creating Person-Centred Organisations, by Stephen Stirk and Helen Sanderson – which is based around the story of United Response.
If you are new to person-centred thinking, you may be interested in our new series of videos in which our managing director Bob Tindall explores different facets of the topic.
You can access the full playlist of videos on the United Response Youtube Channel.