Getting to basics on culture change

Mar 25th

If the term ‘culture change’ has you reaching for the metaphorical remote control to change the channel, you may have heard one too many pious exhortation to change the culture.  I’ve heard two apparently contradictory views on culture recently that reminded me of what is at the root of organisational culture.

John Seddon of Vanguard Consulting can be relied upon for trenchant and provocative views and he recently took the head of HM Customs and Revenue to task for talking about and investing in culture change.  The point he makes is that if you can get the flow and organisation of work right then many of the organisational conditions around the work will take care of themselves.  He reminds us that organisational culture is not an end in itself – it is a property of the organisation that can serve the purpose and work of the organisation for better or worse.  If the work is inefficient, wasteful and chaotic how can the culture be healthy?

Ed Schein of MIT who is a guru of organisational knowledge if anyone is, held a seminar at the Improvement and Development Agency at the end of last year.  He pointed out that when clients ask him for help on culture change he cannot tell them whether he can help or not as he does not (yet) know what they mean.  His response is to pursue a line of questioning that takes their often vague concept of culture change and narrows it down to a specific shift in behaviours that is required if work is to be done differently.  Culture change that is not specified in this plain language of work related behaviours is a  recipe for wasted effort….continue reading the March Inside Track newsletter

This article is filed under: culture change, organisational culture, values

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