Speedlinking on culture…
You can distinguish [an orange’s] shape, its color, its size, and its smell and taste. However, you can’t do away with any of these attributes and still have an orange. So it is with your organization’s core ideology.
Mission and vision, values and culture – I might also add strategy – all are critical to an organization’s success. So be sure to have your orange for breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast and culture, Michael McKinney provides a vivid example of how deeply engrained culture can trump attempts to change. According to McGuire and Rhodes in Transforming Your Leadership Culture, a maintenance crew removed leather chairs from an executive conference room because it was scheduled to be used by people lower in the hierarchy.
Without question, they simply followed the cultural norm. The cultural authority and trappings of status were so embedded in the organization that it didn’t even occur to them that vice presidents might sit in executive chairs while meeting on the executive floor.
Clearly, culture is a powerful influence on employee behavior.
But what is culture exactly and how can we use it to our advantage? Jonathan Hartman’s seemingly abandoned blog defines culture as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from another”. He likes this definition (and I agree) because it allows that culture can be reprogrammed, albeit not without considerable work. Jonathan ends the post with a powerful idea on how to capitalize on culture:
Could it be possible to survey a selected target market (i.e. marketing majors), identify their values, attitudes, and behaviors, and from that data, produce a service that accurately defines them? You could do this by designing the survey to match each value to a particular attribute of a service, with a unique combination of values leading to a unique service.
Culture can be an incubator for business ideas. I think Jonathan is on to something. Maybe that’s why he stopped blogging.