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CULTURE exists everywhere

Culture is hard to understand, hard to measure and can be surrounded by wrong thinking - making it hard to talk about in any meaningful way.

The reality is that as soon as two people collaborate a culture is created. A culture may naturally evolve while in other cases certain elements are added to create a focus. In most cases people and organizations focus on a culture that is non-violent appreciating other’s strengths, understanding weaknesses and a focus on being the best you can be.

Many organizations focus on mimicking the Toyota Production System by implementing the methodologies and hoping the culture will follow.

Focus on Respect for People …

This needs to be supported with visual indictors and enablers, yes it can be subliminal and most often is ... but as we like to coach, 1) Acknowledge you have hired professionals 2) You will provide your Professionals with a Professional environment within to function and hence then you can expect 3) Professional results. Unfortunately, we are constantly amazed how Leaders allow organizations allow their premises to become disorganized and messy and then cannot figure out why people don't stay or why they have quality issues.

As a leader within your organization you can create a positive culture through subtle mannerisms.

The culture begins to shape through the evolution of Team Dynamics. Every Team must progress through 4 stages of evolution;

  • Forming

  • Storming

  • Norming

  • Performing

This happens with every team no matter what your organization is. Now you can shape the final outcome by providing your Team with guidelines or as I like to share Foul Lines ... the degree that decisions can be made. Of course this is founded on the Organization's aspirations and beliefs.

Treat everyone like you are in an “Adult to Adult” relationship. This means that you can respect others to follow the traditional norms of being a responsible adult. Like clean up after yourself, work in a clean environment and respect what is given to you as if you have worked hard to obtain this asset.

This is why I like the use of uniforms … it makes everyone look the same … so now you can focus on the individual’s attributes. Everyone brings a strength to the organization from being a CEO … someone who provides strategic direction and focus to the organization and includes the janitor who insures that we have the cleanest bathrooms on the planet.

It also respects that not everyone wants to be engaged but still should be empowered. Many people just want to come into work and manage their assigned process but do not want to get involved in other activities. Much akin to do you live to eat or do you eat to live?

But Toyota did start with a key element to define their culture … JIDOKA … with this attribute no matter if you are engaged or just another employee if something Is not correct you are empowered to stop the process and seek assistance to have a remedy implemented.

This a very powerful attribute … imagine a long conveyor snaking its way through a plant engaging over 1500 people along the way and if you as an individual feel empowered to

stop the line you are in essence idling 1500 people until the problem is resolved … not an empowerment to be taken lightly.

A big part the defines culture other than certain methodologies and attributes of empowerment is COMMUNICATION.

What would we think the communications style to be? Is there an open and free-flowing sharing of information, or is information held close to the vest and used as a weapon in some cases and protection in others? What would we think about the level and style of teamwork and collaboration?

Are individuals and departments working together, sharing thoughts, ideas, information and resources? Do they seem eager to work toward common goals, or are they more likely to be engaged in “turf protection” and unproductive competition?

This is why we are such advocates of formal "Daily Report-Outs" which is always a challenge to convince organizations to adopt ... a huge challenge. Most likely because the Leaders think they are already doing it or feel they have a good communications strategy or they feel people are not afraid to communicate. Wrong !! you need a formal methodology with a precise agenda that is quick with a focus on "Precision Speaking" and "Generous Listening" with a cross-funtional team to resolve those immediate Disturbances to Flow.

How would we imagine decisions are made? How do we see problems being addressed and resolved? How are goals and objectives being set? When different ideas, facts, and opinions are being held, how is agreement and consensus managed? What is the approach to learning? Or to innovation? How does your organization go about motivating and reinforcing high levels of performance, if they do so at all?

Many organizations complain that within their organization a “SILO” mentality exists. Typically as we look across a sea of cubicles and the senior leaders hide in opulent offices. If you want to eliminate that Silo culture then bulldoze those cubicles and eliminate the offices. People will naturally migrate to create “communities” that will focus on helping the customer. However, just like in school and University you will need a “Library” where people can go to conduct research, study or just find a little bit of quiet time.

We are also a big believer in daily stand-up meetings that quickly allows everyone to understand the “Centre of Truth”. Indeed there is constant communication happening throughout the day through individual exchanges or meeting with a focused theme but bringing everyone together for 5 minutes to reflect on the past 24 hours and define expectations for the coming 24 hours reduces confusion and more importantly rumours.

So, culture exists, and it makes a difference. The important question with respect to the extant culture is always, “Does our culture support the development and sustenance of a sustained strategic advantage? Or does it hinder it? If sustained strategic advantage depends on getting new products to market quickly and often, does our culture hinder or help? If sustained strategic advantage depends on making operating and customer service decisions quickly, does our culture hinder or help? If sustained strategic advantage depends on implementing new technologies quickly and effectively, does our culture hinder or help?”

Manage these attributes within your communications …

• Communications

• Problem-Solving

• Decision-Making and Planning

• Motivating for Performance

• Collaboration and Teamwork

• Teaching and Learning

• Managing Agreement

• Innovating

Manage these activities through a Servant Leadership style and you can create and manage culture.


We do more than just blog. We're active Lean practitioners who would love to help you achieve your productivity goals.

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