Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Digital Culture is Like“AGUA”

The vivid metaphors for describing culture is like the visible and invisible levels of an iceberg - the solid-state of ‘water.’ 

Every organization has a culture - defined or not.  Organizational culture is the collective mindset, attitudes, and the set of behaviors, expectations, and assumptions that people have about "how things are around here." The culture of an organization is comprised of many intricate and interconnected parts, including corporate strategy and related strategic goals, job roles, business processes, core values, communications practices, corporate attitudes and business policies. Culture therefore is or ought to be very dynamic, changes constantly - like water with the following characteristics:

Flow: Digital boundaries are not "sharp" lines; they are fluid to adapt to changes, so does a digital culture. Digital culture as collective minds and attitudes have to continue to move forward, not backward;  so we have to reflect and examine our own thoughts, beliefs, and actions, and we also have to have the ability to ask the hard questions and engage in meaningful dialogue even if we do not agree with one another we can indeed agree to disagree, yet, stay engaged with one another because the dialogue is important, yet, the culture harmony is priceless. Culture is like water, permeating into every corner of your organization, influence how you think, communicate and act. Culture is the aggregate of all employees' mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors. As such, it changes constantly as events happen and people come and go. It's not something that can be manually controlled by the employer, but culture can be changed, or even well designed, the right set of principles and rules can enable and constrain culture. Your culture guides and informs ‘How you do WHAT you do and should point you to WHY you do it.’ It’s a soft, but tough element which can harden the hardest, to lift your organization to the next level of digital maturity effortlessly, or sink your business tragically.

‘Iceberg’ culture metaphor: The vivid metaphors for describing culture is like the visible and invisible levels of an iceberg - the solid-state of ‘water.’ It is like an iceberg where the visible elements, such as behaviors, make much sense with recognizing and understanding the underlying mindsets, expectations, and assumptions. You cannot consider culture as one element of the strategy execution unless you can identify the dominant cultures, subcultures, and the layers of those cultures. Layers of culture is a critical aspect here. The iceberg metaphor well describes the layers of culture, with values and beliefs often being under the surface. It’s nearly impossible to change the culture without bringing these to the surface, articulating them and assessing whether they are still the right ones for the current environment. And that in a fast-growing company people tend to have similar ideal values that then get manifested in its corporate culture. When the company then grows, this corporate culture tends to stay the same over time -the culture inertia. However, in order to move up to the next level of organizational maturity, the culture needs to be changed as well to adapt to the emerging digital trend and pulling strategy execution towards the right decision. Typically, strategy execution fails due to surprises and unknown/ unforeseen factors. If you take the visible aspects of culture -the tip of the iceberg- alone as an element of the strategy execution, you may well head into trouble. There are stereotyping and elements of ethnocentric culture as well as there is also subculture. So basically, the execution and conviction of strategy strongly rely on culture.

Openness: Either a running river or a deep-sea is open and nourishing for life growth. It’s not necessarily just about transparency, but the balance of visibility and invisibility; inclusiveness and dynamic. Culture is invisible, but culture can be read through employees' behaviors and activities. Visibility is really important for teams as every member is always aware of how the whole process is going on, what does business culture encourage them to do, and what results have already been achieved. Water is transparent. Transparency doesn’t mean to be compliant only, or being too “direct,” too straight, or even too “rude.” Make everything clear like the water does not permit arguing. Just like the water is too pure, has no fish. No doubt about it, transparency is a fundamental factor for performance. However, a prerequisite for transparency is trust. Trust can only be built in an organizational environment conducive to the culture of learning and ideal-seeking behavior (behavior-enhancing organizational structure). Therefore, openness, allowing the different ways to do things, encouraging creativity is the positive effect of well-tuned transparency to improve corporate culture.

Digital culture is like water, encompasses all sorts of things, to keep an organization dynamic and energetic, the good culture is nourishing and fluid; the point is you can not only see the surface to know the culture, often you need to assess underneath parts to truly understand the culture. Since culture has such a large impact on individual actions and how people accomplish work and overall strategy implementation, there is an overwhelming temptation to fiddle with cultural attributes—values, norms, and beliefs. Culture is created and shaped by a cascade of influences -just like the waves in the ocean, ride above and master it.


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