“It isn’t the [add subject in question], it’s the culture”
I’ve read this a few times over the past couple of weeks and each time become increasingly more irked. The first time was on the blog of my friend and co-collaborator Rob Jones in a rather lame and cack handed defence of appraisals. Another time was from the enigma that is @fizzywizzy in relation to Lloyd’s bank introduction of quotas for female managers.
Of course, I get the point both are trying to make. But it also reminds me of one of the biggest weaknesses of the profession. The inability to see both the big and the small, to navigate the interconnected nature of everything that we do around people, to wrestle with the simple complexity that is the world of work.
If a culture isn’t made up of the interventions that an organisation has, what is it?
Culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Culture doesn’t make itself. Culture isn’t a higher being. Culture is a result of the million small things that we do at work every day. From a Human Resource perspective, culture is defined by every touch point that we offer to anyone in our organisation. The relationship between culture and intervention is multi faceted and multi directional.
The suggestion that somehow “culture” sits outside of the practical and the pragmatic is both dangerous and lazy. Dangerous because it allows us to excuse failure. Lazy because it suggests lack of influence.
If you want to develop your organisational culture, if you want to build and grow your organisation, start with the small. You can make a million small things happen much quicker than you think. And each of those, if correctly designed, thought through and implemented will go much further to developing your culture than big strategic round tables or away days.
The big is made of the small, the small influences the big. Culture is everything that we do.
It isn’t the culture that’s the problem, it’s everything we do.