It’s time to turn the culture world upside down and explode many incorrect notions that are preventing meaningful culture change for organizations and society. We’ve reached a critical point where most leaders are aware culture is important, but they range from being confused to intentionally uninformed about what culture change is all about. This culture awareness-education gap appears to be growing, with a proliferation of over-simplified or incorrect education, unreliable surveys and analytics, so-called experts at every turn, and leaders seduced by the latest trend or silver bullet.
I spent 15 years learning and applying culture insights as a senior executive and consultant across multiple organizations before I started to proactively reach out to top culture pioneers and experts to learn about their culture facts and fundamentals. We can’t learn much about culture from the popular press and most social media is dominated by over-simplified or incorrect culture content. Critical culture change insights from the top culture experts in history are unfortunately “secrets” to the vast majority of leaders. Other leaders turn away from the fundamentals of culture to more exotic and superficial solutions.
We’re going to accelerate your organizational culture change education with this post. Every leader will benefit from understanding the following critical insights about culture and problem solving, change, engagement, strategy, hiring, and consulting shared by Edgar Schein, Professor Emeritus with MIT Sloan School of Management and the most influential authority in the culture field.
I first interviewed Ed when this site was launched in 2014 and we held a very thorough follow-up interview last year. Ed is continuing to make an impact in the culture field and beyond. He recently formed the Schein Organizational Culture and Leadership Institute. The Institute is dedicated to advancing organizational development through a deeper understanding of organizational and occupational cultures—how they arise, develop, and evolve.
We started this interview with a brief review of culture fundamentals and then probed the connection of culture and important culture-related workplace topics like engagement, hiring for cultural fit and strategy. Culture clearly impacts these areas but the connection is not widely understood and it’s often oversimplified.
Culture is a hot topic. It was the Merriam-Webster “word of the year” for 2014. Leaders and experts across the world are talking about how to develop an agile culture, implement a lean culture, overcome the culture clash in acquisitions, and many other areas of culture change. Unfortunately, the reality is that most of these leaders and experts are actually focusing their efforts on climate and not dealing with the deeper, more powerful subject of culture. I didn’t understand the difference until the past few years.