Good morning. I’m David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.
What is culture?
Dictionary.com offers 8 non-biology related definitions.
1. the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.
2. that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc.
3. a particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period: Greek culture.
4. development or improvement of the mind by education or training.
5. the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular group of people, as a social, ethnic, professional, or age group (usually used in combination): the youth culture; the drug culture.
6. the shared beliefs, behaviors, or social environment connected with a particular aspect of society: the rape culture on campus; the culture of poverty; a culture of celebrity worship.
7. the values, typical practices, and goals of a business or other organization, especially a large corporation: Their corporate culture frowns on avoiding risk.
8. Anthropology. the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.
We see culture in the arts, rituals, and ceremonies of any community, society or nation. Think about the way we in the US have weddings or funerals. And then, within a variety of communities there are special features of the celebrations. A wedding involving a military officer is likely to feature something like a saber arch for the married couple to pass through as they exit the chapel. Mine did. Then my best man swatted my bride on the backside with the broad side of his saber…an old and somewhat questionable ritual.
We have graduation ceremonies, bar mitzvahs, prayer breakfasts, and any number of other reasons we get together. We have have rituals for things like kids’ soccer games - oranges at halftime; ice cream after the game.
In an office, it’s no different. The rituals and ceremonies are the meetings and gatherings we have for a variety of purposes. They can be formal or informal, long or short.
It might be a quarterly all-hands where we share the news of the company and recognize people for accomplishments and achievements.
It might be how we send off retirees. Or it might just be our weekly pot luck.
The frequency and the duration of any of these along with the tension in the room, tells us the culture of any organization. If, during the potluck or birthday ceremony, everyone is a little tense and anxious to get back to work, what would that tell you?
In Operational Excellence, we talk about creating a culture of continuous improvement or a culture of problem solving. And we can talk about it a lot. But if we don’t have that now, we won’t get it by talking about it. We have to deliberately change the rituals and ceremonies around problem solving and continuous improvement. There has to be a legitimate reason for people to change the way they behave.
Ultimately, I think we want to move from a culture of compliance, where people do what they’re told or what they are allowed to do, to a culture of engagement, where people do what they need to do to make the workplace better. Of course that’s a function of trust between the workforce and management, isn’t it?
At the lowest end of the culture spectrum, we can describe a culture as defiant. I’ll pick this up tomorrow and see where it leads.
Don’t forget to register for my High Speed problem solving workshop, hosted by Lean Frontiers on December 2 and 3.
Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.