Sunday, 9 August 2009

Got culture?

How does your culture smell? Honestly. Is your culture able to change? Do you have the radical transparency needed to change: to produce high performing sales teams, production teams, design teams, management teams . . . . . . .  or are you still stuck in the age of bullsh*t; still demanding engagement.

Last week I spent a day at a seminar by the super sales guy Jack Daly: story teller, successful ironman, richman, golfer, husband, grandfather, not-gardener.   Jack super energetically dealt with “how to sell more” then  he (just as energetically but more seriously) got down to “how to get others to sell more”. His focus was “culture”.

Jack quoted John Kotter’s (Corporate Culture and Performance. 1992) 10 yr study of 12 firms  showing the massive difference in revenue, stock price, net income and job growth that attention to culture produces.

As Jack observes culture normally gets overlooked in the usual business rush because it’s not urgent. I’d add that it’s also because managers and the managed are typically blind to culture and anyway, culture change is too slow to achieve inside an annual plan.

Every organisation has a culture. Even a new organisation has one. It came with the people who joined the organisation.  Culture is unconscious reflex assumptions, beliefs and attitudes.  Culture is self-sealing. What we see and experience tends to confirm what we already “know”: our assumptions, beliefs and attitudes.

How hard is it to change culture? Consider changing the culture of Samoa for instance. Well the early Christian missionaries did it. It took a magnetic, compelling vision; the right people in the right place; and their collective purpose and conviction (strong organisational culture): their passion to make a particular difference.

The aftermath of a crisis is a great opportunity to initiate a culture change. The window doesn’t last long (see The emperor has no clothes). It’s not long before people shut up because they “know what’s good for them”(see Learning for change feels risky).  If you don’t have a crisis, then create one to engender a sense of urgency (John Kotter. A Sense of Urgency. 2008).

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