It’s the culture inn’it
What is ‘the culture’? Perhaps it’s a thing, an object, like a car. Our leaders have talked about organisational culture for years. Hearing their words, you might think changing culture is as easy as having a beer. Perhaps, being human and all, there’s more to it.
‘Life—the way it really is—is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse’ Joseph Brodsky
Cynicism, hypocrisy, failures … politics?
Why do we moralise about our political and financial industry’s cynicism, hypocrisy, corruption and failures. For some of us, social media abuse meets our needs to complain and criticise. With punishment in mind, others might demand heads on spikes. Sad to say, neither solve the culture problem. What can be done? It seems that the way most politicians and many leaders handle crises confirms the culture they inhabit. As a result, what might we experience? Is it fair to say: fudge, mendacity or, if needed, downright lies. Worse still, people may find themselves hung out to dry.
Gladiators at bay … PMQ
Of course, parliament is more of a gladitorial entertainment where politicians slug it out like outraged, vicious schoolchildren. This is seen at Prime Minister’s Questions, when insults are traded along with spittle, big words, half-truths and spurious statistics, All this of course as colleagues bay like a pack of gormless hyenas. In a word, it isn’t pretty, it’s embarrassing.
How about the bicycle incident? Of course, Andrew Mitchell was known for his rudeness. In his case the press noise was loud and filled many column inches.
As a result of bullying and visible misdemeanours, our executive demands and/or promises cultural change. In spite of new vows and policies offering a blame-free culture, our stable leaders clutch the levers of power with the fierce grip of a drowning person. With historic evidence of minimal change, entrenched in traditions and precedents, how can we believe the soundbites? In other words, are weasel words and sincere sounding words enough to overcome ‘bad’ cultures, eliminate bullying leadership, improve project-management/financial reporting and ensure transparency for all?
When you get right down to it
In a quiet moment, one might research what history reports about effective and sustained cultural change? Consequently, for a multitude of reasons one might ask who and where are the best culture changers? Perhaps it’s a leadership thing. For this reason we might consider if a comfortable, power-soaked Minister, with many adoring (compliant) apparatchiks can become a leading exponent of a new cultural style?
It seems the Bubble thinks so. In fact, they’re bound to be good at it because they’ve done it hundreds of times. Who shouted out about leopards and spots? One thing is certain, the people in charge can drag everything on for many years as investigations and committees look into what went wrong … until we forget all about it and the status quo remains (as usual).
In spite of it all
In spite of the above, could it be that organisational culture is a living thing, changing, adapting and evolving all the time? If that is so, we can already observe it. Without a doubt, many of us already have experience of cultures at work and other aspects of life. Do you ever complain about it? If you agree that we can’t dictate change like a doctor prescribes medicine, how do we make it happen?
Of course, we need an idea of what a culture is, that begs a question, what is culture? I asked myself. Here’s my first pass:
Culture is a present working reality, defined by life experience and leadership, revealed by attitude and behaviour and corrupted by greed and ego.
What do you make of all this? Can a culture be changed like a car or a pair of shoes?
Is action needed?
If we think the culture of organisations and society is very important, what must we do to ensure our leaders get their act together and stick with it? Can we create a pragmatic tradition of focus, skill, integrity and humanity? In reality, do we, as citizens, have the determination to demand a new order? If so, can we expect resistance from the very people who demand or promise cultural change?
What are we going to about it?
© Mac Logan