Challenging the “culture cult”

I was fascinated to read a recent Harvard Business School Review …“We’re thinking about Organisational Culture all wrong” – Written by John Traphagan.

The first two paragraphs gripped me.

“A common thread in the study of organizational culture is the idea of culture as a unifying force that brings people together to work productively toward the attainment of organizational goals. In this approach, organizational culture is understood as a variable to be used in projects of social engineering aimed at creating unity and cohesion.

But that’s not really what culture is about, nor is it a useful way to think about organizations. Why?

Because culture isn’t just about unity; it’s also about division. Rather than a deterministic “thing” that shapes behavior and unifies people, culture is something people use, often strategically, to achieve goals. It can also provide a basis upon which people contest and counter certain ideas and values while accepting other values associated with a particular cultural context.”

I believe the author is right on the button. The real issue is how we behave towards one
another…and to our precious planet. There’s hardly a corporate of any size that doesn’t have a framed statement of either “Our Culture” or “Our Values”, or both…on the letterhead, the website, or framed and hung on the wall at reception.

Yet the behaviours both inside and outside don’t unify the players.

When push comes to shove, we play POWER against and upon one another.
We play like leopards….trained to play independently, for themselves. Not like lions who play in and for the pride.

The challenge we enjoy sharing is helping people learn that they have a choice. They can behave in a way that is divisive and costly, or in a way that creates unity and cohesion and high levels of sustainable energy, that enable them to THINK and THINK TOGETHER much better….the critical capacity for survival in our complex, fast changing and unpredictable world.

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