Posts Tagged ‘Organizational Development’

Culture: Old and New Assumptions

January 10, 2011 3 comments

Lately, I’ve been trying to get a bead on culture and the effect culture has on Project/Technology ROI and Implementation Cost.  The research I have uncovered suggests something very striking.  What I mean is that most, if not all, of the Culture Assessment tools I examined have a specific view point.  That viewpoint is simple:  That if you interview people with a certain list of questions, you can come to find the culture of your organization. The results are  graphs, charts, and definitions.  At the time I was examining these products, I had no problem with them.  As time went on, I came to realize that there might be something missing.

On the surface, these methodologies seem like magic.  I could see why they sold.  But as I thought about it and reflected on my experience in corporate consulting, I came to a  conclusion…

Most of the methodologies out there right now really don’t take the whole of their organization into consideration.  They just think they do.

Interestingly enough, they claim to give the whole picture of the culture of the organization supported by their results, but I don’t believe they have been very successful up to this point .  In my opinion, this is what the current Organizational Assessments promise to show you:


Business As Usual

Current Presiding Cultural Viewpoint

Here’s the kicker: This view commonly says there is ONE culture that describes 100% of the organization.  That the whole of the organization has the same culture.  I’m not sure that this is an accurate depiction of what is really going on in reality.

My position on why this occurs? Most culture assessments methodologies come to this conclusion is because of four main factors:

  1. Leadership is most often interviewed in a culture assessment which creates a bias.
  2. There is no cross-pollination of information before the survey results are tallied.
  3. Employees (and people in general) are trained and conditioned to assume culture is a top-down mandate.
  4. The current dominant POV is that culture is bound by the borders of the organization.

Well, I have news…Good news for some and maybe not for others.

Leadership, while it has influence, does not a culture make.

You see, there is another reason for organizational strife, bad ROI, silos, and poor project management in general.  It is not just competition for scare organizational resources. It is also the competition between various, border-less, and unconstrained cultures vying for survival and influence.  Cultures do not stay within departments (or even organizations)! Assessing only leadership’s perception of culture does not give a clear picture of how software, process, or procedure should be implemented.  Each culture has its own way of integrating new information in the form of technological change and a more successful implementation team will understand and put this into practice.

Mama mia!  How ever will we sort through this mess?

A More Realistic Cultural Viewpoint

What we really have in an organization are nested cultural nodes, or simply “Pocket Cultures“, which are all interacting in a very complex way.  Through this interaction, the true organizational culture emerges.  Some Pocket Cultures, like personalities, can be dominant in the organization.  This does not mean the dominant culture is the correct one.  It is just the one that uses strategic means to keep its position as dominant.

So, what does all this mean?

  • Current organizational assessment tools are most likely ill-equipped to deal with a reality which takes this complex cultural interplay into consideration.
  • Executives can expect a higher adoption rate and ROI if they understand the concept of Pocket Cultures.
  • Implementation Project Managers should lead with an assessment of Pocket Cultures to find the best entry-point into the organization, giving them a much higher success rate.

Well, that’s my rant.  I can see I have a lot of work to do on this idea.  I’ll bring some of the big brains I know together to mull this over.  Firstly, I will will be working on developing an assessment which takes pocket cultures into consideration.  Everything after that is a hazy future-fog, but I bet you that it is fun out there!

For more on Organizational Types, see: Organizational Types or Wikipedia.


My Performance Review 2010 and Some Shout-Outs

December 29, 2010 2 comments

It has been almost a year since my last post.  I can only say that I had a few reasons for this:

  1. I had nothing to write about.
  2. I wanted to work on listening/reading over telling everyone my POV.
  3. Twitter is a VERY seductive mistress for someone with writer’s block…Much to easy to send out a link with short comments over writing something of substance.

Excuses, excuses…

So, I am happy to report that I survived my first year as an independent consultant.  It has been a very interesting experience that I recommend for anyone who needs a jolt back to life.  When I first started, I had some really bad habits that I needed to break.  Most notably:  Communicating in a way that people understand.  The most interesting difference for me was that there is no feedback net.  I have always loved getting feedback from my peers and managers to improve my performance.  As an independent, I found none of that and I felt myself go into a stall.  I actually got hungry for someone to tell me how to improve myself.  It is a very different experience to judged solely by the market and not having someone to say:

“Michael you need to be more/less ________.”

I came to the conclusion that I am going to have to give MYSELF a year-end review.  I have been through this process many times and never really liked the incomplete criteria by which I was judged.  In this regard, I researched some personality traits and skill sets that I would like to include in my year end assessment. Maybe in the future some of these may be included in the development profile of a 21st Century contributor.  This is in no way complete, but I would like to get it out there…Without further ado, I give you my annual performance and development review:

For the fun of it.

If you know me and disagree with any of the information above, let me know!  I would love to hear from you and it would also scratch my itch for feedback.

Thanks so much to Traits of Human Consciousness for providing an exhaustive list from which to select.

Finally, some shout-outs to the people who have played a role in my life over the last year (In no particular order…):

  • Jim Davis for his incredibly open and honest communications with me.  May your search for truth, love, and beauty be fruitful.
  • Monica Anderson for showing me an entirely different perspective on how things really work in this reality. May our friendship continue and your ideas embraced.
  • Scott Blumin for giving me a chance when no one else did.  You are a sage among men and I am honored to know you.  You have my respect and allegiance in everything we do.
  • Lang Davison for listening to my crazy rants and helping me see the possibility of a divine construction in the workplace. May all of your endeavors be blessed and love be with you everywhere you go.
  • Michael Massey for showing me that the Buddha is smiling for a reason.  May the cosmic joke tickle you pink and let all those in your presence be consumed by the glorious laughter you have given me.
  • David Foox for being a brother in dark times.  May you receive as much joy from creation as you have given me in allowing me to participate in your wonderful journey.
  • Bruce Kunkel for always confirming my beliefs with love, appreciation, and excitement.  You, my friend, live the life of a true and uncompromising artist.  May good fortune come to you and love be your guide.
  • Jason Salzetti for setting me free. If I didn’t “get it” before, I am getting it now.
  • Bernd Nernberger for participating in and promoting the crazy stuff we work on at Syntience. May your new year be filled with wonder and discovery!
  • Geoff Brown for being there at the most unexpected times.  May all of your plans come to fruition.
  • Michael Marlaire for believing in me and never forgetting to send me my NASA invites and updates.  I wish you health and happiness and I appreciate the joy you bring into every situation.
  • Michael Kenny for teaching me valuable lessons about how the world works.  You have touched my life in ways that you could not imagine.  I wish you and your family the best in the coming year.

If you are not listed here, apologies!  I will be sure to tell you how special you have made my year.

Happy New Year!!!!

The Awesome Power of Pull, Part II: The Pull Organization

November 15, 2009 4 comments

Now that we have discussed the fundamental strengths and weaknesses of a Push-based organization, I think it is safe to start discussing the Pull-based design and how it is different from the mechanical Push organization.  We’ve already said that Push organizations are efficient, results-oriented, and structured.  This is the case for every Push organization and every one of the “wanna-be-Pull” designs that have been tried in the last decade or so.

Some of these pseudo-Pulls are the Functional, Divisional, and the Matrix organization.  Funny thing is, even though they pose as innovative, they all pretty much end up being rigid and fragile in the new paradigm.  So, if the Push organization was mechanically structured, how can one describe a system which does not depend upon the ideas of top-down management?

It means throwing away a lot of things you were taught about hierarchical organizations.

Let’s start by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a Pull-based organization and maybe you will start to see what needs to be checked at the door:

Strength Weakness
Flexibility Against the Unexpected Inefficient
Requires No Theories (or Consultants) Burns Resources
Environment is Assumed Ideal Unpredictable Outcomes
Embraces Innovation and Invention Not Easily Measurable and Transparent
Self-Reinforces Against Hidden Risks Can Be Irrational
Never Gets “Too Big to Fail” Not Always Repeatable
Black, White, Grey, Blue, Red…etc. No Plug and Play Models
Handles Complexity Well Highly Unstructured
Wise Requires Practice
Creates Emergent Value Knowledge Agnostic

If it appears that I have flipped the script from the other Strengths & Weaknesses table, you are not mistaken.  One of the wonders of this great and infinitely open system called “reality” are these fun little paradoxes which appear to be opposites.  The true embrace begins however, when we stop seeing them as opposites and start to see them as equals to be applied where their strengths are needed.

The greatest future (and present) leaders will be wise enough to effectively choose a Push or Pull approach for the operation at hand, all the while being comfortable with the strange loops their decisions create.  It takes a bit of bravery to move into this space and effective leaders will need to be courageous enough to break the mold and abandon the expectations pushed upon them.

If there is a change management plan to all of this it is this: Embrace Paradox and Uncertainty!

Next up:  What does a Pull team look like?  If it is not “commanded” to form, how does it form?

(NOTE:  I have abandoned the discussion of individual personality in this series of posts.  I think that by reading about Push & Pull Organizations you will get who likes to be where.  If you don’t, here’s a summary:  Push can be considered managing others & Pull is self management.  Control-based people like Push…Flaky creatives like Pull.)

The Awesome Power of Pull, Part I.V

October 29, 2009 1 comment

In the first post setting up for the discussion of Pull, I mentioned that in this second post I was going to go over the personality type that represented the modern push-oriented individual.  I think I’d like to stop for a second and before I do that clear something up.  After reading the first post again, I realized that I was focusing rather negatively on the current situation in Command and Control (C&C) at the large scale, only exploring the weaknesses.

I want to make sure that everyone understands that C&C is NOT inherently a bad structure or framework for an organization.

It is when the extremes of C&C are taken as the only way to structure an organization that we really start to see the brittle and inflexible nature of this organizational structure.  Here, for the benefit of later discussion, is a table which fairly shows the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the C&C hierarchy:

Strength Weakness
Highly Efficient Rigidity Against the Unexpected
Conserves Resources Requires Complete Theories
More Predictable Outcomes Environment Must be Ideal
Easily Measurable and Transparent Shuns Innovation and Invention
Logically and/or Reasonably Defined Can Ignore Hidden Risks
Repeatable Tendency to “Break Big”
Plug and Play Models / “One Size Fits All” Black and White
Highly Productive Doesn’t Handle Complexity Well
Doesn’t Require Practice
Knowledge Based

I want to ensure everyone gets this simple fact as well:

C&C is a human-made tool just like a hammer or a wrench is a tool.

In this case it is a tool which organizes people and resources into a management framework.  Using a certain tool for a certain job can yield more effective results.  It only makes sense that we start looking at the emerging organization as needing a more elegant tool to organize people and resources.

I like to tell my friends at Syntience:  You can use a hammer to drive a screw into a wooden board, but it is much more elegant to use a screwdriver.