Channeling the Power of Culture

Channeling the Power of CultureIf you ever doubted the importance of culture as a living, breathing, embedded influence in your organization, try doing something inconsistent with the culture.  Try inculcating innovation and entrepreneurship in a culture of unquestioning respect for authority at each level.  A slog.  Try taking away a seemingly insignificant employee benefit at a company that’s been paternalistic.  A mutiny. Continue reading

The Gift of Respite: Creating a Culture With Breathing Space

culture of respiteCarl called his two primary clients recently to tell them his wife needed serious surgery in a couple days, and he asked them to give him a few extra days to complete reports, promising to attend to the work in between periods of helping his wife through post-operative recovery.

The first client, Brigid, expressed empathy and wished his wife well, and then asked a number of questions about when she could get the delayed preliminary findings and what would be the latest he might finish the report. Carl was reassuring, but he ended the phone call feeling stress about how he’d manage everything. Continue reading

Has Society Crept into Your Workplace? A Culture Quiz

Think your company has an unassailable culture?  One that you’ve carefully cultivated over time?  Would you notice if it started to subtly change?

One of my clients, the CEO of a successful business with a well-deserved reputation for outstanding customer focus and staffed with dedicated professionals, reported over time an increasing unhappiness with his job:  “I don’t enjoy being here any more.  I don’t like what’s happening.”  He had a hard time putting his finger on what it was that caused his discomfort.  When he did, it was an even more troubling realization: “People in the company – and especially some of my top people – aren’t doing what’s right for the firm, only what they see as benefitting themselves.”  He went on to describe diversions of blame when goals were not met, lack of personal accountability to the firm’s goals, and decisions in one line of business that disadvantaged others.  He wondered how such a reputable and caring culture could have shifted without his seeing it sooner. Continue reading

What Cost Outrage? 3 Ways Outrage Impairs Organizations

So much outrage, so little time.  We barely have time to get off the adrenalin of one attack of outrage before the next one hits us.  On one day in the Wall Street Journal, the word “outrage” appeared 191 times.  In one week in the New York Times, 3,810 times.  We get consumed with outrage over things as big and morally significant as the acceptability of sexual violence in Indian society, and as insignificant as the length of Kim Kardashian’s marriage.  Outrage has gone beyond being a fad to being the way we express all manner of emotions on a wide spectrum.  And it has even become the accepted way of talking to each other – or more correctly, talking at each other. Continue reading

“Let’s Shoot the Sacred Cows!” – A Guide to Corporate Cultural Revolution

shoot sacred cowsOne day, over lunch with two of my corporate colleagues, we challenged each other to form a list of all the company’s sacred cows: the norms no one challenges, the unspoken behavioral rules, the gospel according to long corporate practice.  Gleefully, we started listing them.  Soon, however, the glee turned more serious.  Without really trying, in just one hour, we had a three-page, single-spaced list – with no duplications!  We’d never imagined there could be so many.  Was this a good thing or a bad thing? Continue reading

Organizational Culture: Are You Shaping It or Is It Shaping You?

Organizational culture is one of those concepts like religious faith – we know it is powerful, it can be potently good or potently destructive, and it has a seeming life of its own. But every leader poses the same question: can it be harnessed and directed; can it be changed to support success rather than hinder it? To answer that, you need to understand what builds and feeds it.

Professors Ken Thompson (DePaul University) and Fred Luthans (University of Nebraska) describe seven characteristics of organizational culture: Continue reading