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IF YOU HAVE A DRIVER’S LICENSE,

YOU KNOW THE BASICS ABOUT

CHANGING AN ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
As I have discussed in many of my posts, cultures are driven by:

  • a strong common support for the end results of your efforts
  • Shared personal skills that everyone understands and uses
  • Well-understood processes that are followed and embraced by all participants
  • Decision competency – people are clear that decisions will be made.

All 4 of these concepts defining the way that cultures work, can be understood by looking at the way that we drive our cars in Seattle’s transportation network. If you have a driver’s license and drive your car on our different roadways, then you are participating in our region’s driving culture – in order to get to your destination, you have to be ALL-IN. I contend that once you understand that all organizing cultures are built on the four elements – then you can impact any culture by:

  • Being consistent in buying ALL-IN to supporting the desired outcomes of your organization.
  • That you consistently demonstrate the critical individual skills that the ALL-IN culture defines [ i.e. Listening with the intent to understand – not to speak]
  • You follow the basic ALL-IN processes especially around decision making, conflict management, and Initiative processes.
  • Finally- you make decisions and support decisions that are timely and have followed the processes.

 

So let’s look at the concept of Seattle’s driving culture, so that you can get a stronger understanding of how this demonstrates my point. The driver’s license metaphor can give you the understanding to have an impact on any culture.

HOW MANY LANES ARE YOU DRIVING ON?

Cultures are like roads ways – you need to know how many lanes you are navigating. Some cultures are two lane roads: once you are on the road, you get in behind the person in front of you and make sure you do not rear-end that car. In most cases, there are places where there are passing lanes and the painted stripes on the road tell you when you can pass or when you can’t. Your individual skill is the personal judgment of how long you have to pass the car in front of you, and how fast you have to go to make the pass. You also have to believe that the cars [obstacles] coming toward you, are using the same rules that you are using. On the sides of the roads are “Guard-Rails” that keep you from leaving the road-way, so your only choice is to follow the rules, manage your driving skills and arrive at your destination whenever the road and its traffic allow. This a description of a tightly controlled culture, where staying in the culture requires conformity.

On the other end of the road spectrum: the 4-5 lane freeway, with off-ramps and HOV lanes, heavy traffic congestion, and lots of Big Trucks. Think of the differences in this type of culture: first, you are no longer concerned with traffic coming at you – the problem is the cars and trucks behind you. There is also a tendency with this driving experience you will have more individuals not making the same individual judgments on how fast they think they can drive – cars changing lanes without using their blinker, and trucks changing lanes just because they can. In Seattle’s driving context, we also have freeway entrances on the wrong side – meaning that in order to get off at the desired exit you have a short distance window to move across 4-5 lanes in heavy traffic. You may also be on a freeway lane that disappears just at the wrong time.

I have often said Seattle only has 2 traffic issues 1] you can’t get ON the freeway and 2] you can’t get OFF the freeway – there is nowhere to go. The point is: you may be working in an organizational culture that has many challenges: lots of lanes, lots of traffic, and lots of historical decisions that have engineered work-a-rounds to make things happen. This is the description of a culture that has not been built with the end in mind, decisions made without clear understanding of how to create organizational culture – down the road, traffic will be a mess…

 

NOW, LET’S LOOK AT THE “ALL-IN” FROM THE DRIVER’S POINT OF VIEW:

        Individual Skills

What does it take to get a Driver’s License? It starts with the idea that you have to pass a written test on the rules of the road – how to know what the road signs mean, the stripes painted on the roadways, how to pass, how to navigate a yellow light, how to make a turn, using your hazard lights when you stop on the side of the road, parking rules, and on and on.. Then, you usually have a loving relative who takes you to a large parking lot, where you actually drive a car. In my day, we had a stick shift, which meant the highest level of personal skill was starting a car from a dead stop on a steep hill. Today’s cars are now almost driving themselves. In fact, there are studies that suggest we would be safer in self-driving cars than cars driven by human beings. (Think of the implications on an organization’s culture if computers made decisions and we just did what we were told -) Finally, to get your drivers license, you go to the licensing office and you drive the car with a licensor – you have to prove to them that you know the rules of the road and have the skills to drive the car and follow those rules.

Now, think about joining an organization – are you informed on the individual skills that you need to have to be part of the culture? In most cases, there is a hand book and an orientation meeting, at best. How about a mentor to help you understand the culture? What about a job description that defines some interpersonal skills that need to be followed? Some companies have a 90 day probation period – is it clear what is expected that you demonstrate in those 90 days? My point is that to get a drivers license, there are clear individual expectations – can you define your organization’s individual expectations?

Following The Processes

In getting your driver’s license you had to know the rules of the road. Does your Organization have the processes of their culture clearly articulated? In most production cultures, the processes are Very defined. Production environments most resemble the 2 lane road analogy that I used earlier. They are tightly controlled and have Guard-Rails to ensure that no one leaves the structure of incremental improvement culture. Today’s world is more about organizational initiatives than incremental change. Today’s world is more like my freeway analogy, where the chances for accidents, poor engineering, and miscommunications are very high. Without clear process understanding, you might be in a constant crisis culture. The ALL-IN culture ensures that the process in the initiative culture are clear and well understood

 

      Everyone being ALL-IN for the Organizational Outcomes

The previous organizational world was built on the concepts of Mission, Vision, Core Values, and 5 year Strategic Plans. I contend that the generational differences in our organizational structures have rendered these traditional organizational pillars obsolete; they are no longer a unifying management alternative.

Defining the Mission – is now defining and clarity of the Outcomes.

Defining the Vision – is now the clarity of the initiatives to accomplish the outcomes.

Defining Core Values – is now individual skills and organizational processes.

Defining the 5 Year Strategic Plan – is now making sure the organizational initiatives are compatible and executed collaboratively.

Decision Competency 

Decision Competency is the outcome, when all of these elements are clear – and followed and respected – and understood as the way that the business is managed. The pace of organizational change is unprecedented; the world is still 20% continuous improvement, but it’s now 80% disruptive. Everything is changing and the previous way of doing things is being disrupted or totally discontinued by total new ways of doing almost everything. This is the time for a new management vision of how to stay relevant in today’s disruptive world.

 

Closing

I love to close any presentation with these thoughts:

The largest Property Rental Company in the world is Airbnb, and they own no properties.

The largest Travel Company is Expedia, and they own no/few travel assets.

The largest Cab Company is Uber, and they own no cabs.

The largest Retailer is Amazon, and they own no stores.

The largest Media Company is Facebook, and they produce no media.

The largest Video Company is You-Tube, and they produce no videos.

The largest Cable /Satellite companies will be transformed in the next 2 years by other on-line providers.

I could go on, but I contend that every non-profit/for-profit organization will be confronted with the change-or-fail dilemma in the next few years, even in how you drive your car.

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