Culture

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In our mine safety research one of the key issues is determining the actual root causesof unsafe behavior.  These are usually deeply rooted in entrenched belief systems and metaphors. This story, that I found on Bob Sutton's blog, illustrates how determining what is actually driving behaviour (in this case workplace theft), can lead to astoundingly simple (and cheap) solutions.  In fact, as you'll see in the story, the more expensive solutions (installing cameras) made the situation worse ... "This 2001 study was done [...]

By |May 15th, 2009|Categories: Culture, Narrative|Tags: , |0 Comments

Our mission: water and safety

Most traditional companies are quite intentional about choosing their mission, often settling on a well-crafted statement that sets market domination and excellence as their target. Sonja and I have been less intentional, and have rather let our mission emerge over the last 12 months - emergence is a key factor in managing complexity after all :) What is our mission then? It's not market domination, nor is it service excellence ... while those are important factors of our business. Rather, [...]

Ogilvy’s russian dolls

I came across this little anecdote in and article in the latest edition of Strategy + Business.  It illustrates how savvy leaders know how to use metaphors and symbols to get their point across effectively and strengthen company culture.  David Ogilvy is the founder ofOgilvy & Mather, one of the most successful advertising agencies in the world. "... it wasn’t just what David Ogilvy said that made his principles special; it was also how he said it. ... Ogilvy communicated his principles [...]

Valueless values

TGIF is an informal gathering of like-minded people who meets every Friday to discuss interesting topics.  The invitation they sent out this week really got me thinking.  Here it is (emphasis added)... Is it possible to "hold" values without owning them?  Ask 10 people in the street whether they think honesty (for example) is a great value, and 9.5 of them will say yes. Ask the same 10 people whether they are always honest, and there will be fewer affirmations - [...]

Values vs Slogans

We attended an interesting public workshop on Mine Health and Safety today.  One of the speakers said the following:  Zero harm should be a value, not a slogan. This made me wonder,  how many supposed "values" are nothing more than slogans? ... We often find that people (especially leaders) pay lip service to the latest hot topic by coming up with a catchy phrase, but there's no real substance or commitment behind it. A case in point is the seemingly [...]

The Etceteras

One of our focus areas is retention, specifically a complex approach to retaining key staff.  Many organisations refer to this as "talent management".  This is a very hot topic currently, especially in light of great skills shortages here in SA and elsewhere.  Although I see the necessity for a retention strategy, but there is a part of me that believes that the whole idea of managing 'talent' creates more problems than it solves. How does one determine which individuals can [...]

Sacred stories

We are in the process of planning a couple of exciting projects, one in the world of sport and another in schools.  Both of these involve the capturing of stories to assess culture or to "find the magic" in these environments. During a planning discussion with Dave Snowden this morning, he mentioned the concept of "Sacred Stories", those stories that define the way that people or societies see the world.  This is an intriguing thought.  It got me thinking - what are [...]

By |September 15th, 2008|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Culture in Stories

I heard today of a large South African corporate that underwent a transformation. At a certain point in its history a new top-dog was appointed, and he decided, as the top-dogs are wont to do, to bark and bite most of the existing senior leaders out. This "old guard", also being well known in the organization as great tellers of stories (and in some cases, tall ones, but not the matter), duly left, tails between their legs. Not long after, [...]

By |February 11th, 2008|Categories: Culture, Narrative|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Narrative Intelligence

Over the last few years, we've seen many people jump onto the 'intelligence' bandwagon, with varying levels of success (and substance). Of these Emotional Intelligence (or EQ), which has become part of business jargon globally, is probably the most well-known. Others such as spiritual intelligence and social intelligence haven't really caught on (personally I feel the jury is still out on the business value offered by these concepts). While reading Stephen Denning's new book, 'The secret language of leadership', I came across the interesting concept of narrative [...]

People leave leaders

"I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism." ~ Charles M. Schwab We often conduct narrative based culture audits in organisations, and more often than not, one of the key patterns we find is negativity around leaders who don't acknowledge the effort of their employees. In South Africa, where skills shortages and high staff turnover create headaches [...]

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