Not beyond influence

There are those who figure that changing corporate culture starts with changing how employees respond. Good luck. They respond as they do for a reason. To persuade them to change, you must get them to believe that your authority outweighs their lifetime of experience.

Management Speak: It was developed that way for a reason.

Translation: I don't know what the reason is, and I don't want you to find out because it will make me look bad for not improving it before you asked.

-- This week's contributor wishes to remain anonymous, and does know the reason.

Somebody described the United States as a cultural wasteland. I don't buy it. You can get any kind of culture you want here. There's no problem, unless you want to restrict the culture available to total strangers who don't share your tastes. If those who complain about this kind of thing would spend more time enjoying their own lives instead of trying to control someone else's, they and we would be far happier.

Besides, you and I are too busy to worry about whether or not other folks are enjoying themselves without our approval. Instead of worrying about the state of American culture, we're shaping our corporate cultures -- something that is our responsibility, and one that's too often left to chance.

Culture, according to my college anthropology professor, is the behaviour people exhibit in response to their environment. In any corporation, most of an employee's environment is the behaviour of other employees. Culture is the behaviour people exhibit in response to the behaviour people exhibit in response to ...

Get the idea? Depending on your programming style, culture is either circular or recursive. It's also beyond your control. It isn't, however, beyond your influence.

There are those who figure that changing corporate culture starts with changing how employees respond. Good luck. They respond as they do for a reason. To persuade them to change, you must get them to believe that your authority outweighs their lifetime of experience. If you're that charismatic, you're wasting your talents. Change careers and become a televangelist. You'll make more money with far less effort than leading an IT organisation.

If you don't want to rely on your charisma, you have a different choice: change the environment. Although you can't change how anyone else responds, you can change your own behaviour. Doing so changes the environment everyone around you experiences, and with a new environment to respond to, they'll exhibit different behaviour as well.

When you're in a leadership role, you're a significant component of the environment of those who look to you for leadership. And "in a leadership role" includes anyone who chooses to assert leadership among his or her peers. You don't need a title to lead, merely the desire and technique to successfully influence those around you.

Is your company a cultural wasteland? If you think so, the solution is sitting in your chair.

Change Bob's environment by sending an email to RDLewis@ISSurvivor.com. Bob Lewis is president of IT Catalysts, an independent consultancy specialising in IT effectiveness and strategic alignment. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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