Have you ever worked for an organization where it was proudly said, “we don’t do it that way … it’s not in our culture”?
Well, I have much to my dismay. And I’ve worked with companies like this as an external consultant. When I hear this, it instantly makes me wonder how receptive they are to change, and how easy it is to be innovative within the organization. I’m not talking about the cultural ethics at play in an organization, an aberrant behavior, or a devious decision. I’m talking about the way work gets done, the methods and procedures used to make something happen.
Yes, I’m talking about playing within the rules, living up to ethical standards and doing things right. An example would be breaking up an organizational hierarchy, to remove a bottleneck to getting things done. Or it might be reaching across to a cross-functional partnership to move a process along. Work doesn’t get done in a vacuum, but some organizations are structured like it does. Using a Dyson vacuum is cool … being trapped inside one, not so much.
I’ve seen all too often when new people enter an organization or when a new organization is acquired. The unwritten social, cultural and political rules bear down on the newbie. They can be blindsided or derailed by it. Breaking the rules has consequences in these settings. The penalties for doing so outweigh the reward for taking a risk. Add to that the long memories of some of every miscue you have ever made, and you cannot recover.
We keep hearing about breakthrough thinking and innovation, but if you’re cultural rules, your rewards and punishments, don’t support taking risks or doing things differently, there will be no breakthrough thinking and worse innovation will fall even further behind.
You acquire a company for a reason. You expect it to perform, to see benefits in vertical integration, to see cost efficiencies, you like their innovations etc. So once you get things in order, don’t squash what the company does best by being afraid of difference. It’s ok to let them be different. Standardize platforms, integrate systems, move toward cost efficiency, but not disrupt the way work gets done.
You hire people for a reason. You expect them to perform, to get the job done, to innovate. So don’t build cultural norms that get in their way. If you want your people to thrive, especially the younger generations in your workforce, give them the task and get out of the way. Be there to coach and to be an ear when needed, but don’t smother them or hover over them. Let them shine and grown in the sunlight of your appreciative distance.
Just because it is not done your way or the company way, doesn’t mean that it will be done the wrong way.