Stories are the programming language of culture. The stories people share in an organization reinforce the underlying beliefs and assumptions that shape the culture. To shift culture, reprogram it with new stories.
People sometimes tell me that The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization (Harvard Business School Press, 1993) helped them understand the difference between great team experiences and terrible team experiences. These readers recognized the value of what my co-author, Doug Smith, and I called a “real team” — a team composed of people committed to common purposes, goals, and working approaches accepting of the diversity in others’ skills and perspectives. In real teams, members hold themselves and their teammates mutually accountable, because of their emotional commitment to the work and to one another. That’s how they get things done rapidly and effectively.
What do we do when we just can’t take anymore? Some of us completely unplug our minds, others explode into a state of hysteria; some of us bang our heads against walls, others run away to the sanctuary of the bar to buy a stiff drink, whilst the tee-total amongst us drink the equivalent strength of an alcohol beverage in coffee. Whether you fall into any of these categories is largely irrelevant, for they all share the same common trait, which I term ‘the emotional tipping point’.
Should your company be striving for the type of advantage that has become the hallmarks of Amazon, Google and Facebook? In the tech world, it’s hard to imagine success without quick and continuous technological improvement. But, in the frantic race for product or service superiority, another advantage is often overlooked – company culture.
It doesn’t matter whether you sell information or cremation, the right kind of organizational culture can bolster and sustain a company’s performance.