Culture’s Cogs

Synopsis: Imperatives, expectations and feedback are the mechanisms through which management's desire for high performance are translated into a functioning corporate culture. Regular readers will know that I've been studying corporate cultures over recent months. My goal is to understand how corporate cultures come to be and what management teams can do to shape positive cultures (i.e. cultures that improve quality and productivity while simultaneously lifting employee engagement, morale and...
More

Everything is (not always) Awesome

Synopsis: Feedback to staff is a critical tool management can use to shape corporate culture  This year's Lego Movie spawned the song that has turned into something of an Internet meme. Likely to be 2014's most cheerful tune, the "Everything is Awesome" song tells us that we shouldn't worry about the negatives in life, instead we should focus on the positives. While that happy-go-lucky message lifts spirits and is fun, from a business perspective the song's message is something of a trap that...
More

Pride of Workmanship

Synopsis: The more management focuses on product quality the greater the levels of motivation at the staff level I've written before about how corporate cultures are formed and the massive impact they can have on the outcomes an organization achieves. My hypothesis is that in the longer term organizations with healthy, positive cultures (that are properly aligned with the organization's desired outcomes) are more productive and successful than organizations in which the culture is negative an...
More

Corporate Culture – Part 3

In parts one and two of this series, we've looked how corporate cultures affect the outcomes a project attains and where cultures come from. In this final post in the series we'll look at the mechanisms through which cultures spread and what organizations can do to promote a healthy culture. Pretty much every business leader understands the value of having a positive corporate culture. The state of many businesses however illustrates that not every business leader understands how to shape...
More

Corporate Culture – Part 2

Last week I posted thread that outlined some of the different types of corporate culture and started the process of looking into how corporate culture influences project outcomes. In this week's post we'll look at where cultures come from. Part of the reason corporate culture is so poorly understood is because few organizations appreciate how cultures form. Cultures are invisible and they are hard to define. They develop out of ongoing interactions rather than a single moment in time and ...
More

Corporate Culture – Part 1

Culture is a powerful force in any human system. It establishes the norms of behavior and acts as a reference point for the expectations we have of each other and ourselves. While we are all used to the idea of culture in our public societies (cultures driven by national identity, religious affiliation, generational groups and /or fashion), culture in the workplace gets less attention. While the phase "corporate culture" is banded around, few organizations really have a grasp of what it is, how ...
More

Cognitive biases and leading change – Part 3

In parts 1 and 2 of this series we have looked at the affect cognitive bias have on our view of the past and the present.  In this third and final part we'll be looking at how such biases effect our view of the future. Physicist Niels Bohr (a contemporary and collaborator of Einstein) said “prediction is difficult, especially about the future”.  If humans are biased in our views of the past and present, our views of the future are even more fraught.  We are caught between the Scylla of ho...
More

Cognitive biases and leading change – Part 2

Last week we described the sunk cost and the ostrich biases and how they distorted the way change decision makers view the past. Other biases affect our view of the present.  These present-based biases can be further split into problem definition, and solution finding. Problems in problem definition “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.” (Einstein) The way problems are stated is called th...
More

Cognitive biases and leading change – Part 1

Humans make big thinking mistakes in predictable ways. Collectively these errors are called ‘cognitive biases’. Business leaders sometimes make billion dollar decisions, and neither their businesses nor wider society can afford ‘hardware glitches’ on that scale. This three-part series on cognitive biases and leadership starts with how cognitive biases systematically distort our view of the past and how that affects today’s decisions. In 2001, I was called into British Airways because they...
More

Shifting the status quo

In Project Management circles there is an increasing awareness that some projects aren't just about producing deliverables, they are about delivering "change".  Project's in today's business world are often changing the way business is done and the failure to recognize how hard it can be to change work habits, or organizational structures, is one of the contributing factors seen in a number of the projects in the "Catalogue of Catastrophe". Many of the better Project Management courses in the...
More