I am a little confused: the word ‘climate’ seems to be used interchangeably with the word ‘culture’ in relation to organisations. So, what is the difference, if any?

I sacrificed some Easter sunshine in the garden to do the research.  Climate the world over is important in generating a society’s culture. So in organisations climate plays a powerful role in the long-term development of culture.  Top management is responsible for both organisational climate and culture.  Leaders implement policies and procedures to meet their goals – this sets the climate for the organisation. The goals and values of the leaders should, in a healthy firm, become enacted in the behaviours displayed in the organisation to become the core values that form the institutional culture. At the same time, the climates (yes, there are many of them) reinforce behaviours which become perceived as the appropriate way to behave. Climate enables the culture to develop and flourish.  

Just as law firm leaders have finally grasped the slippery ‘culture’ concept and nailed it to their websites emblazoned within their stated values, are we now saying this isn’t enough to remain relevant and now they also need to deal with organisational climate?  As the ‘feel’ of an organisation stems from both its culture and its climate, the answer to that question has to be ‘yes’. 

It’s not just a new word, it’s a new world: organisational climate is like going into a different but connected galaxy (and language) for which the uninitiated need a guide.  That’s the bad news.  No pressure for all you Managing Partners out there, then. 

The good news is that in doing my research I found an easy way to impress at the next Management Committee meeting: when the agenda gets to the ‘Organisational Climate’ item, casually ask whether they mean molar or focused climate or both.  If pressed, direct them to Schneider. And next time you get interviewed about your firm’s culture (or climate), explain that your organisation is based on the ‘climcult’ framework anchored in values promoting wellbeing, which forms a foundation for strategically oriented climates and the achievement of the organisation’s strategic goals. 

You’re welcome.