Scrum Notes 2013-20

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A few words on (corporate) culture change ▶️

Cultural change, South Africa, 1879—1915

There is a lot of talk in the corporate world these days of "culture change". It is a dangerous phrase. Also, it's rather a fool's errand. Culture is an effect. How does one change an effect? Indirectly, of course. We must understand the cause/s of a culture, and focus on influencing those. When the causes are different, the culture may begin to alter—but not necessarily in the way we desire. Be careful!

Misunderstanding the causes, the reasons, the traditions, may result in the utter destruction of a culture, and the benefits that the culture provided. Think 18th/19th/20th century western government (and missionary) intervention in pretty much any developing country.

Your culture is what it is. If you don't like it, discover how it emerged, and what value it provides. Then work with those around you to discover other ways of meeting those same values, and discovering new values to strive for. Don't hire a consultant. They won't have a clue, because they haven't lived with you.

You cannot (usefully) change another's culture, but you can influence an environment—in harmony with that environment, and its inhabitants. Cultural change may follow... as a side effect.

I found this story about Yahoo's aggressively corrosive performance appraisal system positively Orwellian: "[Marissa Mayer] noted that employees would be judged on four Cs — culture, company goals, calibration and compensation." Did it occur to no-one that these HR practices would be toxic to whatever culture was left at Yahoo?
— Michael James

Michael, it occurred to many, perhaps even most, but sadly (apparently) not to anyone with the positional power to change it.
— author

Palo Alto, 25/01/2016   comment