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Changing Culture

Culture in an organisation is shaped and molded by a myriad of factors both within and without the boundaries of the organisation…

The impact of external factors such as regulation shapes how organisations need to respond and behave (or not) which in itself shapes the culture within.

What is generally permitted or not within the organisation (formal policies and informal practices) shapes the culture and even perhaps creates counter-cultures within.

The shadow of Leaders (formal positions) and the shadow of leadership (peoples agency) creates behaviours and ripples which impacts the culture and the sub-cultures.

There’s a complexity and a beauty here. For me it’s akin to a body of water moving or a weather system; beautiful complex fluidity.

From different positions it can appear quite different – the individual experience of the fluidity is subjective both in experience and perspective. If you are at the heart of an eddy it must be quite different to the smoother progress elsewhere…

Because culture isn’t singular. It’s multiple. It’s experiential. It’s subjective.

Yet on a general level we can appreciate the overall features and general progression of organisational culture. How it works overall. What it erodes. What it creates. In fact, working with that patterning and appreciating it’s overall impact gives us the insight to seek change at that level.

But you can’t change culture as an observer. Change can only happen at the multiple, the experiential, the subjective. You have to effect change in the stream. You have to be a part of it or a partner to it.

It requires careful fluid crafting. It’s not singular. [That’s why I get concerned when people say this]. Yet how many culture change programmes focus on the singular? How many become an initiative that tries to dam (damn?) the river rather than work with the flows and shapes?

Culture is something we can help shape and craft only if we are willing to work with it’s beautifully complex fluidity. If we’re willing to work in the flow and in the eddies. If we are willing and able to appreciate the overall features and general progression.

If you can’t do that or if you just want to build dams then don’t. Culture is far stronger than you, always.


One thought on “Changing Culture

  1. Nice analogy or is it a metaphor… anyway I like the signification of the river. Understanding the flow is also about understanding why and how the river is there (and not somewhere else) in the first place. The quality and type of rock are significant and you could extend that metaphor to the culture of an organisation. What can and can’t be changed easily or with constant pounding (and is the effort worthwhile?)…

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by hvanameyde | September 26, 2016, 9:21 PM


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