To do, be, or 'be in becoming'…

Org Learning – Post 5

Get some culture! O, maybe it’s not so easy to know what I can do to get culture… shall I don some blue jeans, green jeans, or black/white suit… or perhaps it’s where I live, what kind of furniture I have in my living space, what kind of art I have on the walls or tables, or not at all… or is it what I tell my friends, family and associates the values and beliefs I have?? Or… is my culture perhaps those unspoken, tacit things that I base my actual actions on… I don’t know if these things meet a sociologist’s idea of culture. However, Schein suggests that artifacts, espoused values, and underlying assumptions can be used to gain insight into the culture of an organization.

There seems to be so much to reflect on about culture… are we (or is an organization) individualistic and competitive or communitarian and cooperative… Do I (or an organization) emphasize ‘doing’, ‘being’, or ‘being in becoming’…  Theory Y or Theory X… How do we relate to time?? How about intimacy??

Indeed the topic of culture is very complex. And yet, it’s also fascinating to consider some of the many different factors and elements. In regards to an organization, one of the things that really strikes me is how connected culture is with leadership. The actions and behavior (you could also include words too, I think) of leaders carry a huge weight in forming an organizations’ culture. It’s so evident from what we could see in story told in the Enron movie.

hs-2009-14-a-med_jpg

Everything is an intervention – a Hubble perspective

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/galaxy/results/50/

This makes me think that the more I am conscious of my values and underlying assumptions, the more I will be aware of the impact of all the stuff I say or do has on those I meet and in my environment as I walk through my day. Hmmm…. It seems like a tall order. However, the thing I find is that when I look back at my day(s) I see that there are so often consequences that I hadn’t intended. Sometimes these are painful or have a high cost of some sort or another. I don’t want to berate myself for whatever gaps I find in what I wish to do, be, or ‘be in becoming’ and what I actually do or am. However, I can see that it’s a learning process and if I can become more aware of the various elements at work in myself, perhaps I can recognize such factors or elements in an organization that I may be working with or in.



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4 Responses to “To do, be, or 'be in becoming'…”


  1. 1 yovhane 3 November 2009 at 1:07 am

    It is interesting how the culture takes on many of the characteristics of the leader. In an adult ed, classroom the teacher tries to be the facilitator or the guide more so than the source of knowledge or validation. They still lead; however, it’s in a less direct or applied context as a K-12 classroom. I definitely picked up on different aspects of the culture within our own classroom since I joined an obviously established group.
    I wonder how much of a true democracy still takes on the characteristics of the leader. If the employees find the organization to support their own development and will, then I believe the leader will be able to convince underlings to adopt his or her beliefs. Then there is Schein’s dichotomy; the alternative is the culture ruling the leader. It’s one versus the many, and in most cases, the many will take back the power eventually as soon as they feel it’s possible and in their better interest.
    I never thought to assess the difference between my own espoused values versus my honest actions or cognitive assumptions. Just as Jeff Skilling may truly believe that he was under no wrong doing, I wonder if extremely stifling and autocratic leaders also feel as if they are acting in the best interest of the organization.

    • 2 bluesky55 3 November 2009 at 11:30 am

      I do relish the constructivist perspectives that much of the adult learning literature espouses and VCU’s adult learning program puts into practice. From my own experience in educating and training adults, I’ve found that most adults are motivated from within to either learn or not. It seems to me a matter of respecting the potential of each person and allowing them the space and possibility of what is valuable to them. Anyway, I’ve found that when I tried to tell someone something (be the expert or ‘sage on the stage’), I’ve often found they didn’t accept it anyway. And when it was possible to create an atmosphere or climate of respect and trust, then the participants were more eager and receptive to perspectives that I shared or others in the room.

      About assessing the differences between our espoused values and actions or assumptions, our culture (are there some that do?) doesn’t really seem to encourage us this way. I guess the culture here is ‘doing’, and reflecting on what we’ve done and how that differs from what we espouse to see if we can learn and possibly change something in ourselves is not so prevalent, or hardly encouraged. However, I’ve found for myself that looking at myself (introspection, you could say) has helped me change some of those assumptions that were not in sync with what I wish to be or become…

  2. 3 Edward Howard 3 November 2009 at 10:35 am

    Johnathan,

    I love the idea of looking at our daily actions and their impacts from the perspective of how they are culturally driven, and then trying to better understand our own underlying assumptions. I can almost feel the transformative possibilities of unearthing those assumptions and shifting our individual thinking. Sure, the way I’m describing it sounds a little like psychoanalysis, but with out the social stigma.  Seriously though, something about this sounds so accessible. I know that some of my own underlying assumptions often lead to situations that wish I’d handled differently. Also, given the very close tie of culture to leadership, as you point out, this sort of introspection may not only help us to better understand ourselves in the context of our organizations, but also to then become better leaders.

    • 4 bluesky55 3 November 2009 at 11:13 am

      Ed,
      Yes, I have tried to do some introspection in some way or another for a few years. It has helped me know myself better and, I think, be a more effective leader, team member, and individual. I have had many experiences of when I reflected on something that went awry in my work or daily life, I could trace it back to some tacit belief or assumption that I was held. And at times I could find that my assumptions/beliefs/actions did not jibe with what I wished or espoused. Although, it’s not so easy to change such deeply held perspectives, I think that over time changes have been possible. I find it so interesting that we are looking deeper into this subject and gaining the perspective of those who have researched and studied about culture and how it impacts and organization and it looks like we will now look deeper the issue of leadership. I do hope I can gain more insight that will help me to be a more effective leader and, …a better human being.


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