A Snapshot of Culture in Action
A man and his wife entered a deli together late one afternoon. They were the only customers in the place. The server behind the deli counter said, “May I help you?” But before either could reply, the other person behind the deli counter, standing off to the side, uttered a fairly loud “uh-hum.” A discussion then took place between the two employees.
There is nothing more exciting than the moment a new leader is announced. Employees Google her/his name, wondering what she/he will do to change the organization. A new leader brings new ideas. She/he offers a new vision. They may even help the organization imagine better ways to remain relevant and thrive in the future.
Edward Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods one of the largest United States retailers took a bold stand to no longer sell assault rifles. In addition, they will only sell guns to those 21 years and older. At a time when the country is divided over second amendment rights, gun control, and public safety, why would a company like Dick’s make such a decision? Was it the discovery that Nikolas Cruz the 19-year-old responsible for the Florida attack had purchased a gun from Dick’s previously? Was it because of the millennials protesting gun violence? What are the cultural implications? These answers can be found by looking at how the environment influences decision-making, public opinion, leadership, and culture.
There are several approaches to changing cultural norms in an organization, however, the actual transformation comes from its people doing something unique, adopting new behaviors, changing the way they solve problems, and the way they communicate and interact with each other.
To change something, we must understand the way it’s created, formed and influenced. Here are three powerful drivers of culture: behaviors, techniques, and symbols.
A while ago, I was counseling a senior executive of a government bureau who was two years into shaping his agency to be more customer and results-centered. He rebuilt his 200-person group, propelled key actions, coached his staff on changing mindsets, and settled on some challenging personnel decisions. At about the same time these efforts were beginning to reveal positive outcomes, a new governor was named. His main goal? To shape my client’s agency to be more customer- and results-centered! What could this senior leader say? “That’s what we’re already doing” would have appeared defensive and resistant. He basically sat passively as his new manager laid out plans for stirring things up.