Culture: Quadrant 3

"Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization's makeup and success — along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like...
I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn't just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value."

  — Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Former CEO of IBM

What is collective and What is intangible?

The emotional valence of interactions across the organisation. Are people warm and caring towards each other, but perhaps cold or combative towards customers? Do people spend time getting to know about each other's lives? or is it a more transactional environment?
Power and Politics
  • They are power and forms of overt or covert domination a factor in the workplace?
  • Are some people BIG and some people small?
  • Are there in-groups and out-groups?
  • How do decisions get made, officially and unofficially? Are these different?
  • Who are the influencers?
  • What are the games that people are playing?
    • Insurgent-revolution-from-the-bottom?
    • Sponsorship-alliance-building?
    • Empire-building-resource-hoarding?
    • Expertise-knowledge-withholding?
Behavioural norms
  • What is acceptable and what is not?
  • Can we argue and disagree strongly with each other, or do we all have to be nice, calm, even-voiced?
  • Are you expected to fit in with the group or is it OK to be different?
  • How different can you be?
Symbols, stories, myths
Are there symbols or signifiers of meaning that everyone tunes into - the dropping of a notebook loudly on the table means the meeting has started... or the closing of that same notebook means that the boss has checked out and the meeting is over; Is this a place on the way up? or the way out? are we 'innovative cowboys', because someone created that new product that was so successful? or are we 'cardigan-wearing fuddy-duddies', because over half of us have worked here more than 10 years...?
The common misconception that ‘leadership’ is a set of traits, behaviours or skills possessed by an individual has created a huge consulting, coaching and development industry, but also accounts for mostly unimpressive leadership outcomes.
“Instead, leadership is a social process that enables individuals to work together to achieve results they could never achieve working as individuals.” (Center for Creative Leadership); leadership’s presence is signaled by the organisational outcomes of a shared purpose/ Direction, Alignment on how work is done and how people collaborate with each other, and a Commitment from people to the organisation’s purpose.
(Shared) values
  • Why are people showing up to work each day?
  • Are they doing it for the same reasons?
  • Is there coherence between why people are contributing their passions, skills, expertise and energy? Or is this only about money?
  • What do people stand for?
  • What will they accept?
  • What will engage them?
  • What will they walk away from?
Social processes
  • Do we have rituals that help to define who we are with each other and in this place?
  • Is the first agenda item always a check-in?
  • Do we have a social contract that people use and is meaningful?

The components of culture interact with each other as much as they interact across the other 3 quadrants...

All too often, all three of Leadership's organisational outcomes are compromised by transactional and dehumanised relationships, abusive power-plays and dysfunctional office politics, undermining symbols, and cynical stories, and defensive or reactive behavioural norms, more attuned to covering up or hiding, for fear of punishment or other negative consequences.

Creating constructive social process must be done experientially, in intact teams, generally off-site (so people have enough psychological safety to experiment with relating to each other differently), AND, most importantly, directly applied to the actual work outcomes people are accountable to deliver (as opposed to a made-up workplace project). Additionally, teams need to be coached, challenged, and supported to apply new relational patterns in the workplace, in-situ.

It is almost a cliché to quote Drucker’s “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, however, the frequent repeating of this phrase does not in itself mean it isn't true.

A generative leadership culture, with healthy interpersonal norms and relationships will assist any team handle complex and uncertain environments better than rigid, codified ways of working, exhaustively defined standard operating procedures, and systems of work, or power-laden structures of accountabilities and authorities.

Mindset Quadrant 1