Every organization has a culture. Every team within the organization is a sub-culture.

In my thinking, culture is a sustained pattern of thinking and behavior across levels and functions within the organization. The pattern flows like a river, moving around the same rocks, faster then slower, shaping and being shaped by the shoreline. When objects are introduced into the river, they either drop to the bottom, follow the flow, change the flow, or get removed from the river.

At any point in time, an organization and it’s teams are already in a particular “flow.” We do this. We don’t do that. We think this way. We don’t think that way.

Of course, not every person is in sync with the culture. While being out of sync can be uncomfortable, it can also be a strategic advantage (ask me about that!).

Can we shift a strong culture…

  • From the top? Like a new lid on the pot?
  • From the middle? Like the ham and cheese in a sandwich?
  • As one person? Like a salmon swimming upstream?

The stronger the culture and the more tightly the culture is linked to past success, the harder it is to make a shift. The stronger the tie to a compelling future vision of success or requirement for survival (even better), the more early traction we can get.

Take a piece of paper out and make a 2X5 chart, two rows and five columns.

  • Write Think and Behave in the rows.
  • Write Strategic Plans, Goals, Decisions, Collaboration, Feedback, Solve Problems.

Look at your chart and describe the way your organization or team “flows.” Then ask, who was instrumental and how did we get into these flows? Why would we want to work at redirecting part of the flow? What would it take to be successful?