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?
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.