This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Culture is nebulous, focus on what you can change

Candida in Culture Gram StainWhat is this quote talking about?

So, focus on your management system, on targets you can see, such as leader's behavior, specific expectations, tools, and routine practices.

Knowledge management? Human resources? Theory of Constraints? How about some more of the quote - actually the preceding paragraph:

Culture is no more likely a target than the air we breathe. It is not something to target for change. Culture is an idea arising from experience. That is, our idea of culture of a place or organization is a result of what we experience there. In this way, a company's culture is a result of its management system. The premise of this book is that culture is critical, and to change it, you have to change your management system.

This quote is from Creating a Lean Culture by David Mann, as quoted by Alan Shalloway in his blog entry Why Not to Focus on a Company’s Culture. Don't bother fixing the culture. Make the system work, and the culture will arise.

But how do I justify this thinking with the many times I have written about culture or pieces by my friends, like Luis Suarez' recent The Soft Skills of Collaboration and The Social Enterprise, which appears to say that we have to focus on creating the right culture to enable the Social Enterprise. I am pretty sure I have had that sentiment and used those words.

We want the results of "the right culture" or "a collaborative environment," so the natural inclination is to create those things. I like Alan Shalloway's take on this: would you reject working with an organization because it had the "wrong" culture, or would you take that assessment and implement the mechanisms required to do the job?

It turns out that things like "culture" and "collaboration" are easy to spot but very difficult to create - when you focus on creating culture. They are concepts rather than behavior. Rather, as the blurb above suggests, focus on the behaviors you want to see and the system that you are trying to change. When those changes occur, take a look and see if the culture / collaboration are happening - or if you need to look at other behaviors / measures

[Photo: "Candida in Culture Gram Stain" by Albaraa Mehdar]

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