Create a space to listen and value all stories, even the ones that make you feel uncomfortable. If people are having repeated negative dialogue around something, there is likely to be some element of truth around it.
If life has taught me something, it’s good to be honest, having difficult conversations can be hard, but when done well they can also be helpful to enable others to think and reflect. But what do you do when you see one thing, which everyone is talking about, but external reports and those in a position of power to change it simply don’t see what you see? TWBC often sees this when looking at culture. Sometimes we see something in particular, we point it out and no one believes or sees it.
Johnson and Scholes (2002) cultural web is a helpful framework to suggest why this may be the case. The framework illustrates six key elements that make up a ‘paradigm’ or a mental model of how organisations view themselves – the way they think, behave and operate. Over time, many believe things about themselves, due to such things as previous stories, myths, symbols, power and organisational structures.
There are, of course, many ways of testing out where you are now using the Culture Web, but I’ve often found a few things particularly helpful as a starting point:
- Do not overly rely on formal mechanisms to be informed on how well you are doing, it may not give you the full picture. Hearing the ‘noise on the ground’ will often give you a much clearer idea.
- Create a space to listen and value all stories, even the ones that make you feel uncomfortable. If people are having repeated negative dialogue around something, there is likely to be some element of truth around it.
- Create a space to reflect yourself! Be prepared to have your own beliefs about your organisation tested out, it is easy to hold onto to one key story and build everything around it, but much harder to test out if that story is shared and believed by others.
With a change in mindset, and organisational behaviours, it is perfectly possible to get a much clearer and honest view about how things actually are.
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