Posts Tagged 'leadership'

Leadership and culture

Org Learning – Post 4

What whirlwind the past 2 weeks! After a long, slow decline my dad passed on, two weeks ago to the day. I can’t say that I’ve fully digested it. I know it will take time to adjust. I will miss him.

It’s interesting that one of the companies that Schein has selected in his text on org culture and leadership is DEC. My dad was quite an advocate of their computer systems and equipment and used them from early in their advent. Even today, the business he was involved in continues to use a DEC computers as a basis for their system. They also use PCs now for quite a few years, but the DEC has been an extremely reliable and stable computing platform for them. I have frequently heard praises of the quality and reliability¬† of their machinery and systems for years. I remember hearing about Ken Olsen and his visionary leadership, however, not so much about the DEC culture, except how they were innovators, and often on the leading edge for many years. My dad never talked about why or how they lost their leading edge. I guess we’ll uncover some of the factors in Schein’s exploration of their culture.

It’s fascinating to consider the roots of culture in an organization, even how culture is formed in the experimental T groups and how it is related to the early actions, attitudes and behavior of leaders. How so much of culture is tacit knowledge based on assumptions that are unrecognized and therefore, often unquestioned. When I think of organizations or even societies that I’ve been a part of or of which I’ve had a glimpse, I often recognized outer aspects and artifacts and even espoused values and norms. However, the underlying assumptions were not always clear to me. I can also see how culture is related to underlying assumptions.

At one time I worked in an organization where the leader was often very distrustful and there was an overarching fear that permeated the workplace and extended to other parts of the organization. I can see this evolved due to the behavior of the leader and underlying assumptions that he/she had that the workers could only be trusted so much, but they were more likely to ‘not understand due to their ignorance’ or something like that. The result was that there was very little trust which also impacted motivation, creativity, etc.

There were times when that when this leader trusted someone, it really impacted their ability to work in a positive way. The workers were then very empowered, enthused, creative, etc. I think the leader thought that he/she was thinking of doing the best for the organization. However, I don’t think he/she was aware of how their behavior and examples affected and influenced the entire organization. After some years, the leadership and structure of the organization changed and the culture also changed dramatically to be more open, inclusive and collaborative.

Thinking of time and space, a friend from New Zealand shared a perspective on time he developed from getting to know people from the Maoris, a Polynesian culture that pre-dates European culture in New Zealand by 500-1000 years or so. The Maoris had two notions of time – Polynesian time and European time. Polynesian time, my friend would say, was the time it took for the sun to set, a flower to bloom, to be with a child as it played. Whereas European time was considered the time to catch a train, to finish a project, to be somewhere or another… It’s not that one view of time is wrong or right, but that having a perspective of both views could really help to add quality to life…