What’s the big deal about culture? | June Update from Craig Clark

What’s the Big Deal about Culture?

We have been dealing with culture and its impact on organizations for some 25 years.  It’s interesting to us, after so many years of culture mostly being relegated to the “soft stuff” in organizational consulting, that all of a sudden, companies are paying attention.

Why is this?

As for why I can only speculate.  Historically, organizations were used to incremental change and as long as they could achieve that, they seem to do pretty well.  So, they focused on engineering better processes, refining their systems and functioned on a top-down decision-making structure, leaving a significant portion of their workforce out of the process, which usually included most of the people who were actually doing the work.

Somewhere in the 90’s the rapid change in technology began to be noticeable.

The term, “the information age”, was emerging.  I recall in Irvine, CA in early 1990 listening to the CEO of Unisys talk about the pace of competition and realizing they were falling behind, so they “really buckled down” to improve, and they did, an impressive 18%.  The only problem, the competition improved by 23%. Rapid technological change was upon us!

Now we’re dealing with exponential to doubly exponential change.

As companies strive to grapple with this daunting challenge, struggle for solutions, and confront “new market disruptors” *(source), many are coming to realize that their people really are their “greatest resource.”

The people actually doing the work know a lot more about how things work in the organization than leadership often does, and maybe they have something useful to contribute…Hallelujah!

Make no mistake, Culture is a leadership accountability.

In a recent presentation, Sue Siegal, CEO of GE Financial, spoke to this.  “Leaders are the culture bearers, the torch keepers of culture in our companies. They might have change agents, or those that actually help them amplify their culture, but the leader cannot delegate culture.

This is a truth that a lot of us forget because we’re so busy. Employees and teams really want to see it from their leaders.  They want to hear the talk, they want to watch them walk the talk, all the time.”

Peter Diamandis of Singularity University talks about the source of the disruptive stress facing leaders “As humans, we think linearly, but the world is changing exponentially…as leaders we are constrained in a linear thinking system which is embedded in a time of exponential change.”

Timo Elliott continues this thread, “The problem with thinking in terms of exponential innovation is people.  In order to effect organizational change at the same rate as technological change means we need to invest more in our people.”

Any dramatic change in the way your people behave, learn, perform on a sustainable basis is going to require dealing with the culture of your organization.

That’s the big deal about Culture.


Further reading,  an article by Matt Brown

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