Your Company Culture And The Uniqueness Paradox

Organizational Stories

Advising senior leaders on the topic of organizational culture for the last fifteen plus years has provided me with a multitude of opportunities to examine the ways in which groups of people organize themselves to accomplish their work and to achieve their mission. There are a wide variety of methods that I use when helping clients to understand the cultures of their organizations. One of these methods is engaging members of a client organization in order to listen to and attempt to make meaning of the stories that are told.

Stories have served a critical purpose in organizing groups of people for thousands of years. Stories are engaging ways to educate members of a group about what is valued by the group. What the group expects from its members. What gets rewarded and what gets people punished. Stories spark different areas of our brains than other forms of communication and this is why they have, and continue to be, utilized to share important ideas amongst and across groups of people.

Stories, due to their unique contextual factors, tend to reinforce the belief that each is a special, one-of-a-kind thing. Stories are not the only organizational phenomenon that foster the belief that organizations and their cultures are unique and special snowflakes but, in reality, organizational cultures and the stories that are shared within them share many commonalities in terms of structure, delivery, and ultimate purpose. This is what researchers Martin, Feldman, Hatch, & Sitkin refer to as the uniqueness paradox.

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Why Your Kid Needs A Side Hustle

Kids side hustle

This year, my son gave me the best gift an entrepreneur could ever ask for. Of course, my second grader, like nearly every other eight-year-old in America, has mastered the ability to influence others to get what he wants. With summer kicking off in full swing, these talents typically revolve around spending an inordinate amount of mental capacity figuring out how to get more screen time. Last week, rather than vying to get a few extra minutes of screen time or finding creative ways to get out of practicing his guitar, my son convinced his friend that they should start a business.

After some cajoling, his friend agreed and they went through the process of deciding what type of business they should embark on. A short while later, the boys settled on a car cleaning business (interiors only mind you). After dedicating their attention to touting the virtues of such a business and the benefit that it would bring to the local community, the boys turned their attention to creating posters and fliers that they attached both to their wagon as well as the community mailboxes in our neighborhood.

Loading up their wagon with their (read my) supplies: a shop vac, dash cleaner, leather cleaner, Windex, paper towels, and rags and were ready for business. They quickly realized that not only did they need something to keep their millions in as they moved from house to house but that they needed a pricing structure. Without missing a beat, they immediately dove in and made it happen.

In order to make sure they had their act together, they asked if my wife and I would be willing to let them practice on our cars, something we promptly agreed to. And then it happened. Something in my son sparked. While I intentionally minded my own business, all the while keeping a rather close eye on them as they worked, I could see a sense of pride swell up in the boys. They were doing something for other people. They were taking great pride in ownership and they were making sure we were satisfied with their work. As they worked, they chatted and their conversations were both surprising and inspiring.

After a short while, our cars were clean and the boys added their first revenues to their kitty, a mason jar with a handwritten sign on it sitting haphazardly in their wagon. With beaming smiles, they began their trek from house to house, knocking on doors and pitching their potential customers. With the confidence only an eight-year-old can have, they let rejection slide off their backs with ease, they took future appointments (which they noted on a small pad), and they moved on to the next house- each stop an opportunity to perfect their pitch.

We’re now a few days into their business and they are still going strong. They have made a surprising amount of money and with summer vacation rapidly approaching, they are already strategizing how to expand their operation into other neighborhoods as well as hiring and training new employees in order to expand.

Why am I telling you this?

It is not uncommon for young children to start a business. Lemonade stand. Mowing lawns. Manicures. (Yes, manicures). It almost seems like a right of passage for many kids in America. I recall multiple businesses that I myself ran as a child with fond memories. All of them, opportunities to develop skills and practice new behaviors that I could take with me the rest of my life.

Why Many Culture Efforts Struggle To Drive Sustainable Change

Culture, Climate and sustainable change

There I was, sitting in the office of a senior executive who was struggling to come to terms with the reality that their organizational change effort, though having somewhat significant success initially, was not sustaining. People were quickly slipping back to old behaviors and engagement measures were sliding back to where they were when the change process started.

As I learned more about the “culture” change efforts that this organization had engaged in over the last year and a half, it became clear to me where it went sideways. This leader is not alone in succumbing to this common misconception about what culture is and isn’t and I felt that it was time to take a moment to clarify a few things for the rest of my readers who may be feeling similar frustrations.

The concept of organizational culture has become widely accepted as a critical component of performance in recent years. With this, I find that a great many of my discussions with leaders, often, teeter between several topics that fall within the realm of culture but are not one and the same. This reality can create some understandable confusion and frustration for people.

One common situation that I find myself running into are conversations with business leaders who are attempting to evolve the cultures of their organization but who, in reality, are focusing on organizational climate. Many business leaders tend to utilize the terms organizational culture and organizational climate interchangeably, and while they share many similarities, there are several key differences that delineate them from one other.

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gothamCulture’s Chris Cancialosi Discusses Adaptive Companies Through The Lens Of Organizational Culture

The SHRM 2019 Spring People + Strategy Journal has been published and in the Perspectives Department, Anna Tavis presents “The Adaptability Challenge.” Martin Reeves, Director of BCG’s think tank, BCG Henderson Institute, is the lead author on this topic writing about “What Makes an Adaptive Company?” Chris Cancialosi, Founder and Partner at gothamCulture, provided one of the counterpoints to the focal article with “Expanding the Lens to Organizational Culture.” To read the article and all of the counterpoints click here.

The Pros And Cons Of Internal Company Podcasts

Internal company podcasts

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t find myself in a conversation with a client, potential client, or team member about the challenges they face with actively engaging their employees. The topic of employee engagement is certainly not new but the tactics associated with engaging employees continues to evolve. This evolution is spurred on by a variety of factors, including technological innovation, and people’s ability to repurpose existing methods in the employee engagement arena.

Take, for example, the prominent use of video conferencing applications in the workplace. Technological advances in both video and in internet bandwidth have created an opportunity for many businesses to capitalize on remote work options for employees that would have never been possible just mere years ago.

Another such reinvention of a popular communication vehicle in today’s society is the use of podcasts by corporations as a way to engage their employees. Take, for example, the wildly popular Trader Joe’s podcast. Originally intended to be a limited, five episode, release, the popularity of the effort evolved into an ongoing phenomenon that customers love as well.

Podcasts may be all the rage, but they might not be the silver bullet your organization is looking for to engage your employees. In an effort to dive a bit deeper into the topic, I spoke with two experts to understand their opinions on when and why an internal, corporate podcast may be the right solution for you.

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How Blending Brand And Culture Can Impact The Customer Experience

Customer experience

Customer experience is a memory. An impression that can stick in the mind for a minute or a lifetime. A positive experience can result in lasting loyalty, endorsement, and evangelism. A poor experience, on the other hand, can almost instantly mean the end of a brand relationship.

PwC reports that 79% of customers rate customer experience as the most important component of the purchasing decision after product quality and price. According to this research, 59% of consumers who love a brand are prepared to forsake it after having a series of poor experiences. The firm also claims that 17% will walk away after only one bad experience. Needless to say, this is concerning for any business.

In order to create amazing customer experiences, companies need to ensure that they have the appropriate bedrock in place to enable brand and culture to be successfully integrated. In this article, we will discuss the three primary foundations – purpose, promise, and values.

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Working With Difficult People

Working With Difficult People Podcast

In every organization, there will be people that you find to be “difficult”. The question is how to navigate these people in a productive way and that doesn’t cause excess stress for you or your team. What can you do? What you do say? What do you ignore? gothamCulture’s Chris Cancialosi discusses this topic with Wanda Wallace on VoiceAmerica Business Channel. Click here to listen!

Navigating Change In Deeply Rooted Organizations

Deeply rooted organization

Anyone who has ever attempted to lead change in an organization, regardless of its size and complexity, will attest that it’s not for the faint of heart. One simple attestation to this is the countless number of books and articles written on the topic.

While organizational change can be difficult, regardless of the circumstances, it can be particularly challenging to create change in organizations that have long-standing histories and deeply embedded cultural norms, beliefs, and assumptions. Organizations that are solidly grounded in legacy and that place significant value on an enviable history oftentimes have the most difficulty creating change. This is especially true when these organizations are attempting to create transformative change (completely disruptive) as opposed to evolutionary change (small slices of change over time).

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The Critical Role of Culture in Technology Transformation

Culture and technology transformation

As the speed of technological innovation continues to increase and as competition to deliver better, faster, and with less down time continues to be a deciding factor in who wins and who loses in the software game, it is important for organizations to take a research-based approach to digital transformation. Over the last five years, DevOps Research and Assessment(DORA) has been studying the practices that drive higher software delivery performance, termed software delivery and operational performance (SDO).

To-date, DORA has surveyed over 30,000 technical professionals globally (~1,900 this year alone) and has begun to understand, from a quantitative perspective, what high-performing technology organizations do and don’t do to drive their dramatically better performance. Read More…

Preventing Potential Dysfunction in the Boardroom

corporate culture

There is no shortage of research on the impact that boards can have on the performance and profitability of the organizations they serve. In today’s business context, boards face higher expectations, increased scrutiny by the community, press, politicians, and the street, and significant increases in the velocity of demands of their attention. These realities create a need for boards to be as effective as possible in driving profitability for the firms they serve. Board inefficiencies and lack of effectiveness are simply not something that organizations can afford. Setting up boards for success starts during the recruitment process and some recent research sheds some light on how to make this process have greater positive impact. Read More…