TAG Consulting


Culture Works, Part 4 – Making A Difference

The news has recently been full of stories about organizations in crisis. From United to Uber, Fox News and Wells Fargo, major company after major company seems to lurch from misstep to misstep.

In our client work we try to instill this simple yet profound lesson: However a problem presents itself it is usually not the real problem.

So, what is the real problem at United, Uber and others? What is the real problem in your organization? Can you state it succinctly?

All too often the “wrong” problem is identified and then “solved”, leaving the real problem untouched. We are good at identifying symptoms of the problem. We are not good at identifying core issues and if core issues go unaddressed, we are doomed to a repeating cycle of problems.

Every organization has “culture” and we believe there are three types of culture:

1. Legacy Culture – this is culture that was created in the past by people no longer involved in the organization. Legacy Culture can be both good and bad.

2. Shadow Culture – this culture exists but we often times do not know where it came from, how it got here and often times we struggle to even define it. Most of the time we can only sense it. Shadow culture is usually negative.

3. Crafted Culture – this culture is designed, built and maintained with extreme intentionality. It informs every strategy, structure, system and space.

Ultimately, the result of Crafted Culture is a thriving organization where people feel like they belong, can contribute uniquely and ultimately make a difference.

In our work with thousands of people over the past nineteen years, we have discovered that people rarely leave their jobs because of pay. They usually leave their job because of broken promises and their inability to make a difference – both of which are evidence of weak culture.

When given the chance to belong and contribute, making a difference is a natural outcome. It does need some harnessing, however.

So, how can people make a difference in ANY organization?

· Creative problem-solving and processes. The best solutions to your biggest problems are most likely already in your organization. Engage people to reimagine things. Give them the time and space to streamline, rework, redesign.

· Empowerment as freedom. People need to feel trusted to succeed and fail. Empowerment is freedom; freedom to invent, dream and stretch. Empowered people are the ones who come up with new ideas, systems, processes and products. Empowered people are the high performers and the over achievers.

· Ownership in the Culture. All too often we want, even expect people to “own the vision” of our organizations. But, we believe that if they “own the vision” but don’t have a part in crafting the culture that will give rise to the vision it will ultimately fail.

The problems at United, Uber, Fox News and Wells Fargo are not system or process problems. They are culture and leader problems. Weak culture creates weak leaders and weak culture is costing them millions of dollars in lost revenue, employee turnover, lawsuits and tarnished images. The solutions are not simply found in new policies and new leadership. They will be found as we craft new thriving culture.

Trevor J. Bron is a Culture Architect and Executive Advisor with TAG