Ranjan De Silva, Partner, Senior Management Consultant, Sensei International

What does organizational culture mean to you?

If I use a metaphor of a fish bowl to describe an organization; the bowl is the physical infrastructures such as buildings, machines, computers, vehicles, technology etc. The big fish in the bowl are the leaders and the school of fish is the rest of the team members. To me, organization culture is the “water” in the fish bowl. If the water is clean, nourishing, energizing the fish will thrive and if the water is toxic the fish will die leaving the infrastructure value-less.

What are the major determinants of organizational culture?

The biggest detriment is the lack of awareness and appreciation by the senior leadership of the importance of organizational culture for the success of the organization. When senior leaders tend to focus on getting the best fishbowl and having the best fish but neglect the water, it is detrimental to the organization. The next detriment is the negative energy that pollutes the water in the form of ego, favoritism, unhealthy competition, humiliation, excessive punishment, lack of appreciation, lack of people development, victimization, prejudices etc. Such behaviors make the water toxic, killing off the school of fish, some of the big fish and finally the organization.

What is the role of employees in organizational culture?

Employees need to understand the current and desired culture and adjust their attitudes and behaviors in line with the desired culture. This is easy if the senior management appreciates the importance of a positive work culture and encourages employees to be a part of it. In case there is no such top management involvement, employees can try and create a positive work culture at least in their own areas of work and be a shining example so that it rubs off on other functions and possibly enlighten senior management. They could also make suggestions to their seniors about the importance of having a positive work culture and embody it.

What are the common problems associated with managing organizational culture?

The biggest problem in managing Organisational culture is not knowing what the desired culture is and how employees at all levels need to behave to create such a culture. The second issue is not having recruitment policies and processes of only hiring people who fit into the desired culture. The third issue is not giving adequate emphasis on the behaviors of employees in performance management. The fourth issue is not aligning rewards, recognition and carrier progression with behaviors that bolster the culture, the fifth important aspect is tolerating behaviors that are not conducive to the culture, especially of those who are achieving business results. Companies who are serious about a positive Organisational culture are willing to make short-term sacrifices of business results on behalf of building a culture that will provide long-term benefits.

What are the ways to innovate company culture? Any best practices to share.

Company culture can be innovated by first conducting a culture audit to understand the current culture. Thereafter, the senior leadership team needs to agree about the importance of having a positive organizational culture and define a set of values and behaviors that need to be lived by all employees to create the organizational culture. While the senior leaders should embody the new culture, they need to be trained on how to lead the cultural transformation. The next step is for all employees, including the leaders, to be trained to change their mindset and behaviors to be aligned with the desired culture using mindtools from sciences such as ‘Transactional Analysis’, ‘Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ and ‘Action Research’ etc. Symbolic reminders such as internal branding, a culture song, culture video, wristbands, key-chains, mugs, t-shirts etc. can be used to remind employees as well as reward conducive behavior. To augment these activities, it is important to adjust recruitment, performance management and termination policies and processes to give prominence to organizational culture. It is important to note that culture change takes time and it is a slow process. As such the action suggested in this paper need to be persisted with as well as changed regularly to avoid boredom and inertia sets in.


Ranjan De Silva is a CEO Success Coach and Team Leadership Specialist, leading the Sensei International operations in Asia.

Ranjan has an ideal mix of practical and theoretical grounding, which makes his input value adding to the clients. His practical experience comes from 35 years of corporate experience that included over 25 years in Director & CEO roles in three leading Asian conglomerates; John Keels Holdings, Rahimafrooz Group, and Apollo Hospitals, in addition to the current role and for various SENSEI INTERNATIONAL clients.

He has provided consultancy and training for people at all levels of organizations in 24 countries in Asia, Europe, Middle East, North America, and North Africa.

His multinational clients in these various countries include Unilever, VF Asia, Svister Wijsmuller, Siemens, SriLankan Airlines, Nestle, Nokia Siemens Networks, Novartis, Maersk, HSBC, Hilton, Glaxo Smith Kline, DHL, British American Tobacco and 3M. Additionally, he has served leading companies in various local markets including; John Keells Holdings, MAS Holdings, Jetwing Group, Hirdramani, Pan Asia Bank, Millennium IT, Rahimafrooz Group, Grameen Phone, BRAC Bank, Alrajhi Bank, SEDCO, and Mashreq Bank.

His theoretical grounding is derived from the Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing [CIM] the UK, where he received the gold medal for the best results in the world at the final examination. His MBA is from the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayawardenepura. He is an accredited trainer in delivering the personal transformation programme, ‘Mastery of Self through Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ and its derivatives.

He is currently pursuing his Doctoral Studies in ‘Organisational Change’ at Ashridge Executive Education in the UK, a member of Hult University USA, inquiring in to ‘Purposefulness for Leadership Effectiveness’.

Ranjan is a Fellow of CIM, A Chartered Marketer and a Past Chairman of CIM, Sri Lanka Branch. These roles and his current role at SENSEI have enabled him to network with corporate leaders of top companies.

He has also shared the stage and networked with management gurus of the caliber of Tom Peters, Edward De Bono, Jack Trout and Omar Khan. He is the author of Mind Programming for Sales Success and the new, further enriched edition of the book, A Better Way to Sell – Sales Mastery through Self Mastery published by Pearson Education.

He is promoted globally by the world’s leading speaker’s bureau Big Speak. More details of Ranjan can be seen on his website and Blog.


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