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Organizational Climate vs. Weather

Updated: May 7

You should be monitoring climate change inside of your organization. And understand if what you're seeing is climate change or merely weather.

black and white picture of sun shining

We all want the bluebuird weather. But how do we get it?

What Organizational Climate?

Climate is defined as "The state of the components of the climate system, including the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere and biosphere and the interactions between them." In your organization, climate is the state of the components of your culture: staff, values, customers, business practices and the interactions between them.

What is Organizational Weather?

Weather is defined as "the state of the atmosphere at a place and time". In your organization, weather is the state of your culture at a place and time.

The climate of your organization is what drives weather and weather "events". Ever walked into a meeting and you could feel the tension and lack of collaboration? Can you feel when your teams are collaborating and doing their work with joy? That's weather. Enough weather patterns and you get a glimpse into your organization's climate.

b&w picture of a storm

Stormy and Unpredictable Weather is Driven by Climate

When you walk into that meeting and it feels "stormy" or tense, that's weather. If it's happening a lot, it's not just bad weather, it's a damaged climate. You've got to become an expert at reading the weather and building wining practices to stabilize a healthy climate to improve your weather. Sometimes you'll hear the metaphor of the "symptom vs. the disease". The issue is this only references PROBLEMS. The Climate vs. Weather concept also allows you to identify good weather and a stable climate as well as know how to keep those blue skies in the forecast.
organizational weather chart

Note that your policies and values affect the climate, but rarely does the weather affect your policies or values. The end result is normally an impact on your people

Stabilizing the Climate to Positively Affect Your Weather

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make: ignoring the realities of organizational climate and it's affect on organizational weather and it's impact on people and assuming the force of their leadership alone is enough to drive people's behavior. Whatever the climate, people automatically sense it and tend to adjust how they behave accordingly. In other words, climate and weather dictate what "feels right" in an organization and govern how people act. So you have to foster a healthy climate:
Look at your values - Are they operationalized into the day-to-day of your organization?
Look at your organization's policies and processes - are they actively helping to create a healthy and stable climate?
Scrutinize your leadership team - Are they leading with self awareness and clarity? Do they contribute to good and stable weather?

While this metaphor might be a little corny, it's very appropriate. We've all worked in environments with unstable climates. We know what kind of weather it creates, and it means people have to bring their raincoat to work. Some of us have been lucky enough to work in healthy stable climates with a majority of good weather days. 72 degrees and sunny for the foreseeable future!

Have you operationalized your values? Have you aligned your leadership and your policies with a stable climate? Do your employees show up to work ready to battle a storm? Which climate do you want to work in?

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