Joe Gerstandt has done an outstanding series of blog posts about organizational culture. Seriously, I usually just refer people to Ed Schein's book on culture, but if you want to get just as much wisdom (but in only four blog posts), go read what Joe has to say (first, second, third, fourth posts).
- Culture is a "force multiplier"
- When you try to change things, culture gets overlooked because it's fuzzy (and that's a problem)
- Culture is the "unwritten rules of the game" (so why don't we talk about it?!)
- Culture drives engagement, which drives results
In the last post (about engagement), Joe goes on to ask everyone how much attention we really pay to culture. There is ample evidence that organizational culture can have a huge impact on effectiveness, yet it is largely ignored on a day-to-day basis. As Joe says, "We are in many ways absentee landlords when it comes to our organizational culture." He gives some good tips about starting the conversation about culture in your organization.
But a bigger question is why? Why do we leave this property unsupervised, wasting potential?
Here's one answer: because we're busy. We're busy doing the things we're supposed to be doing. We're busy doing things that have already been measured and will be measured again. And we can't see a direct connection between culture and the bottom line or our strategic plan. High level research indicates it's there, but we can't see it, so we don't act on it. We read blogs like Joe's and we nod our heads, but we don't change our behavior, because we don't have time.
This one is very familiar to me. I'm frequently guilty of doing things because I like doing them, rather than because they need to be done. There is security in being "busy." And there is fear in not being busy. I've heard from a number of different sources the value of creating a "stop doing" list, rather than only looking at your "to do" list. Yet I've never done it, and I'm not sure anyone has told me that they have either (other than the speakers who were touting it).
It takes courage to stop doing things, particularly when others in the system are now used to you doing them. This is the courage that we call leadership.