City of Eugene
Is Your Culture Holding your Company Back?
One of the primary purposes of corporate culture is to maintain the system – to keep things just the way they are. In this way, your culture can be working against you – trying to keep the organization growing and developing. In this brief article I will explore how cultures are created, and how you mightunwittingly have a defensive culture. As humans we are very adaptable and perceptive – when we find ourselves in a new situation (as some would say out of our comfort zone) our awareness heightens and we start to recognize how others are acting and we adapt to model their behavior to fit in. Operating at this heightened awareness takes a lot of energy, so we start to take on the behaviors of those around us(indoctrination) until we get back into a new comfort zone. In organizations, the behaviors adopted are the behaviors that we perceive as being necessary to fit in and in most cases get ahead. These behaviors may or may not be what we would choose to do, but none the less they are the way things are done around here. A classic example of this occurs on airplanes. When you fly you are part of atemporary organization, where the flight attendants are the formal leaders. During the flight, the flight attendants communicate information about where to put your stuff, to keep you seat belt on, and what to do in case of emergency. One thing that flight attendants do not do is tell you how to get off the plane when you arrive safely; culture has taken care of that as a norm has been establishedto get off the plan row by row. It is efficient and effective, and no one has to say anything, that is just the way we do it. However, occasionally the flight arrives into a hub late, and the flight attendants make a announcement – “We apologize for arriving in Detroit late, we have some passengers on board whom have tight connections, so would you please let them off the plane first?” It is areasonable request, however it rarely has any effect, the norm to get off the plane row by row is stronger than a reasonable request from the leadership. This phenomenon happens in organizations every day, we as leaders make reasonable requests, and our staff has no problem acting like we never said a thing – culture is a powerful force that drives behavior and performance even when it is contrary toour demands.
Since 1983, Michael J. O’Brien has unraveled the complexities of organizations into easy to understand interrelationships. Michael’s diverse background in finance, economics and human behavior has enabled him to take the seemingly unpredictable relationship side of business and make it tangible and manageable. His clear understanding of corporate cultures and leadership has enabledcompanies from around the world to achieve dramatic culture change and performance growth. firstname.lastname@example.org
There are two types of culture – Defensive and Constructive. Constructive cultures reward proactive behaviors that foster innovation, performance and personal responsibility and accountability. Defensive cultures on the other hand reward inactive or reactive behaviors that focus onmaintaining the status quo, blaming others for creating problems and a real desire to look good on the surface. All organizations have some of each set of behaviors in their culture, but what differentiates companies is which set of behaviors is dominant. Research has shown that only about one third of the cultures are primarily constructive, while the remaining two thirds are primarily defensive.The tendency for organizations to be more defensive than constructive is just part of a natural path that organizations follow (unwittingly) in their growth and development. Most organizations start out constructive (or with a lot of money) and to survive they develop a product or service that establishes them with a dominant market position. Over time their initial success leads to more success...