Developing the Impetus to Change a Company's Culture
By Michael S. Slocum
According to Merriam-Webster, Brownian motion is “a random movement of microscopic particles suspended in liquids or gases resulting from the impact of molecules of the surrounding medium” named for Scottish botanist Robert Brown. Corporate Brownian motion is, therefore, a random movement of corporate staff suspended in an organizational environment of uncertainty and mediocrity.
Do Not Judge Intentions
Without judging intentions, we can conclude that the typical staff member of a business goes to work each day and does the best he can with what he has. This may result in some level of satisfaction for individual staff members or even groups or departments but it will not result in the achievement of corporate goals and objectives. This is because the impetus needed to move an entire organization is monumental and all efforts must be focused to achieve these aims across an entire company. It is never enough to have single points of focused action throughout the organization – the full effort needs to be coordinated. Usually the best intentions of staff are not aligned to the needs of the whole organization and the organizations’ customers.
Net Sum Zero
An environment of many individuals working separately brings to mind the reactionary world of suspended particles. The particles and their energies are moving and impacting each other and the media in which they are suspended. This results in a lot of activity, friction and collisions, but no result of significant consequence or importance. Typical staff activity is similarly described. It is important not to judge intentions. Everyone is doing his or her best to be successful but that will still result in a lot of activity, friction and collisions without significant – and positive – results. Rather, there is a healthy dose of reactionary preservationism based on good intentions. Energy is expended to keep things the way they have always been and makes the environment as comfortable as it can be. Progress, however, often comes from discord and rarely stems from comfort.
Organization and Strategy
In order to leverage the skills and good intentions of staff, necessary strategic thought and plan must be created to align all activity across an organization. The company’s leadership must be able to define their service and economic missions. This planning provides a foundation to base strategic vision. The strategic vision is the idealized result of a sum of coordinated actions that the organization seeks to achieve at some point in the future – the end of the journey. Leonardo daVinci suggested that we “think of the end before the beginning” and this approach does exactly that. Once the end is defined, the initial plan to get there can be developed. Strategic planning will decompose the strategies necessary to achieve the vision into work – the holistic framework that will define ALL actions across an organization. The work must be performed from the top-down AND the bottom-up. The effort must be communicated to, and understood by, all. The organization must subsidize actions that help achieve the plan and tax those that do not. In short, there is no work outside the plan – not if the goal is truly desired. These actions will provide the structure so that the activity of staff will be coordinated and effective at organizational transformation. This is quite a bit different from corporate Brownian motion and is necessary if a revolution is needed.
Culture Eats Strategy
This work cannot be performed in a vacuum. As masters of the minimum (see “Bias-Sphere and the Lowest Energy State: Bathed in Mediocrity” commentary), the organization will attempt to revert to normal, pre-strategic operations. The accomplishment of an organizational goal requires prolonged high-level energy and all employees performing new actions. This will move many out of daily routines and will challenge everyone to achieve more than normally required. This will cause some rebellion or even mutiny, but NOT if the process was top-down AND bottom-up with sufficient two-way communication, listening, understanding and cooperation. The culture – the medium in which the strategy will operate – must be aligned as well. The culture more than likely has to undergo a transformation on par with that required for the strategic planning. If the culture does not change, it will eat your strategies and your plan, and you will be left with another empty promise to revolutionize the way you do business.
About the Author:
Michael S. Slocum, Ph.D., is the principal and chief executive officer of The Inventioneering Company. Contact Michael S. Slocum at michael (at) inventioneeringco.com or visit http://www.inventioneeringco.com.