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Work Futures Daily - 10 Principles of Organizational Culture

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Small scale culture change is worth it, Symphony pivots, Laszlo Bock wants us to be more human at wor
 

Work Futures

October 23 · Issue #1016 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Small scale culture change is worth it, Symphony pivots, Laszlo Bock wants us to be more human at work, Adam Grant, The World of 2045, Edgar Schein on organizational learning

Beacon NY - 2018-10-23 — I have just completed a massive report for a client, one that I worked on for months. Whew. I have the desire to take a vacation, but maybe I’ll just take off Thursday and Friday, because that’s all I can carve out.
About that report: you can expect to hear more in the upcoming weeks.
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Long Takes
10 Principles of Organizational Culture | Jon Katzenbach, Carolin Oelschlegel, and James Thomas offer a listcicle, and one that highlights the desire for leader-driven culture change, which is reasonable at its core, but can lead to coercive excesses.
We don’t believe that swift, wholesale culture change is possible — or even desirable. After all, a company’s culture is its basic personality, the essence of how its people interact and work. However, it is an elusively complex entity that survives and evolves mostly through gradual shifts in leadership, strategy, and other circumstances. We find the most useful definition is also the simplest: Culture is the self-sustaining pattern of behavior that determines how things are done.
Made of instinctive, repetitive habits and emotional responses, culture can’t be copied or easily pinned down. Corporate cultures are constantly self-renewing and slowly evolving: What people feel, think, and believe is reflected and shaped by the way they go about their business. Formal efforts to change a culture (to replace it with something entirely new and different) seldom manage to get to the heart of what motivates people, what makes them tick. Strongly worded memos from on high are deleted within hours. You can plaster the walls with large banners proclaiming new values, but people will go about their days, right beneath those signs, continuing with the habits that are familiar and comfortable.
But this inherent complexity shouldn’t deter leaders from trying to use culture as a lever. If you cannot simply replace the entire machine, work on realigning some of the more useful cogs. The name of the game is making use of what you cannot change by using some of the emotional forces within your current culture differently.
The last paragraph is where I think the authors misstep, and emplying the metaphor of cogs in a machine is one indicator of how this mindset – using culture as a lever – can go wrong. However, the practical advice offered in the piece countered my concerns. For example, this takeaway:
The best way to start is to ask yourself a series of questions. What are the most important emotional forces that determine what your people do? What few behavior changes would matter most in meeting strategic and operational imperatives? Who are the authentic informal leaders you can enlist? And what can you and your fellow senior leaders do differently to signal and reinforce those critical behaviors?
Symphony is targeting Bloomberg with bots that talk to each other | Sounds like Symphony has become a platform for banks to intercommunicate via messaging bots:
Using Symphony, banks are deploying chatbots that “talk” amongst themselves to make and settle trades. Bots at RBC and AllianceBernstein, for example, can execute trades with each other over the Symphony platform, while BlackRock and BNP Paribas use them to settle mismatched foreign-exchange swaps.
These workflow-automation bots, which didn’t exist when Symphony was founded, are accelerating adoption of the product among financial institutions. And—as with social media networks like Facebook and Twitter—as more institutions join, network effects make it more appealing for others to sign up.
This is a completely different Symphony, or at least a profound pivot away from trying to be a competitor to Bloomberg’s messaging service. Again, this reminds me of the Commonwealth Bank report on The Machine-to-Machine Economy, which anticipates ‘machines engaging in financial transactions with other machines or parties, for example hiring and paying for their own maintenance workers. This would require them to have their own bank accounts and payment systems.’ Symphony has taken a step in that direction.
Short Takes
Google’s former head of HR wants to help people act more human at work | Jana McGregor spoke with Laszlo Bock, the former head of Google’s ‘people operations’, about his new start-up, Humu, which makes software to help 'nudge’ people to take actions that 'make work better’. They don’t explicitly mention AI, but it sounds bottish.
Why this Wharton wunderkind wants leaders to replace their intuition with evidence | A puffery piece about Adam Grant is filled with nuggets like this:
Studies of creative children, Grant says, show that they have parents who favor values, not rules, something he admits he has to work on with his own three children: “I was bothered by this because every five minutes, when our 5-year-old does something wrong, I’m like, ‘New rule!’ ”
The World of 2045 - What Will Happen in the Future? | I love the idea of a bus that has retail space on it. Nothing much about work, though.
From the Archives and Quote of the Day
When leaders articulate a new vision for their organization and communicate that vision widely, they are typically trying to give large numbers of people in the organization a new insight, and, if they are successful at this, the organization can change directions rather quickly. Developing a new vision and sharing that vision widely can be thought of as one necessary step in speeding up learning. But, alas, as most of you know that is not enough for at least two reasons. Our prior learning based on prior success, what we can think of as the organizational culture, sometimes limits and biases our capacity to perceive and understand a new vision. And sometimes our cognitive capacity is insufficient to grasp the complexity of what is going on, thus limiting our ability to develop realistic visions. The recent interest in systems thinking reflects a growing recognition that our ability to grasp how the world works is limited and we need to learn special analytical techniques to help decipher real world dynamics.
Most organization learning theories focus on this level of cognitive learning and imply that the essence of learning is the acquiring of information and knowledge through various kinds of cognitive activities. What this point of view ignores is that such learning can only occur if the learner recognizes a problem and is motivated to learn, and that even with insight we cannot necessarily produce the right kind of behavior or skill consistently to solve the problem. Insight does not automatically change behavior and until behavior has changed and new results have been observed, we do not know whether what we learning cognitively is valid or not.
| Edgar Schein, How Can Organizations Learn Faster? The Problem Of The Green Room, 1992 [emphasis mine]
How past successes can create blindness, and bias us from gaining new insights about organizational evolution, including being unable to understand such ideas when they are described to us.
Crossposted from workfutures.org.
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