Culture is the invisible attitudes, values, habits, and behaviors that run the place when you're not there.
— Rex Miller, Mabel Casey, and Mark Konchar, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture
Most of my work helps organizations to define their strategy, culture, vision, purpose, and values—and then put those into practice. Leaders are typically good at developing clear vision, a reason for existence and an effective strategy. But when it comes to values and culture they struggle. What leaders often think are distinct and gripping values are usually very common and easily found. Many sound like Hallmark cards.
Culture and values go hand-in-hand so it is not surprising that fuzziness on one end will produce fuzziness on the other.
Culture is simply what happens when you're not there.
It is the natural default of your organization, team, or classroom when authority is not around to direct, troubleshoot, and require accountability. Clear culture answers very fundamental questions: What is expected of me? How do we treat others? How do we get things done around here?
Following my lunch in the cafeteria of a Silicon Valley high-tech company I took my tray to the dishwashing conveyor belt. Before I could set it on the belt I was confronted with five different receptacles—blue, yellow, green, gray, and red. Each one had a symbol. But I'm from Texas where we have two different-colored ...