Speedlinking June 2010

Speedlinking on culture…

Michael Hyatt tackles the unanswerable question “Which is most important to your organization—mission, core values or vision?” using the metaphor of an orange.

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.

6 Responses to Speedlinking June 2010

  1. Stephan June 7, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    I’m not sure I can buy the analogy of culture as an orange. Mostly it’s not that sweet. In my opinion, culture is more like an onion. It has many layers, often makes you cry, and usually has a bitter taste. Of course, my company is more like a vidalia red onion — sweeter than others.

  2. Rachel June 8, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    Stephan, it’s not an orange or onion. It’s more like a pineapple ’cause the way it looks on the outside has nothing to do with how it taste on the inside. Actually culture is usually the other way arund. It looks better on the outside than on the inside.

  3. Mike M June 8, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    If we’re going to debate about culture and fruit, we should talk about youghurt with fruit on the bottom. The yoghurt has active enzymes that represent the true culture while the sweet fruit sits at the bottom inactive until it gets stirred up. We need to be spoons of encouragement to make the result something worth eating or its inconsistent and deosn’t tasts very good. Some are low fat or organic or something but that doesnt really change the fact that management wants the fruit but the true culture is the yoghurt.

  4. Ed June 8, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    I believe that the trick is in creating a culture that welcomes challenges, changes in the culture, and adaptability – that is the one that endures, as contradictory as that may sound. What’s permanent and core in a changing culture ? Only the ability to adapt to a changing world, and therefore the likelihood of surviving.

    Certainly creating a culture is difficult, but that is not the end of it – creating a culture that adapts and endures is needed, and fewer organizations move to this stage of development.

    Too often, an organization successfully grows because its culture is a good match for the environment of the time, and then its culture fights to preserve the status quo – only for the org. to be left behind by a changing world.

  5. Don Bulmer June 15, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    Hi Jonathan:

    Good set of post(s).

    I recently wrote a blog post based on a great article published in the December 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review entitled “The Innovators DNA.” the article discussed the characteristics of leadership that drive innovation cultures within organizations.

    The HBR article was the result of a six-year study to uncover the origins of creative – and often disruptive – business strategies in innovative companies.

    The post is at: http://bit.ly/9ldsGw


  6. Marc August 11, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    Good post but I would add execution to the list–I’ve seen (and worked for) companies that have great vision, culture, and strategy but fail on executing on those strategies. Like an orange with no nutritional value–looks good, tastes good, but you’ll starve to death while eating them.

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