Standard Operating Procedures, strategy documents, all normal process and systems and the organization chart are the headlines. If you really want to understand the culture, forget the headlines and read the small print.
Here is where to find the small print
Cafeteria. Funeral or party? Do you see anybody from the Leadership Team? Managers below? Do people sit by tribes? [Don’t look for silos in the organizatonal survey, look in the cafeteria].
Reception in the corporate building. Welcome visitor or annoying alien? Offered water or coffee or ‘we will call you’? If there are three of them, do they smile to each other?
Corridors and floors? Are people alive or just pretending looking at screens? (There are open plans that look like cemeteries. Who needs silos and doors when we can have screens?)
End of the day. Stampede to the car park as if fleeing a contaminated zone? Friendly people coming out with a face that probably means satisfaction? Anybody still in the building (unless you work in the Scandinavian countries where nobody is in the building, by definition, after 4 pm, and that’s stretching it).
Small Print. That is where culture shows up