"Culture is really an agreement among people on how to work."
There is a simple truth about tenets and other tools that may seem obvious but is not: The principles have to be true to work.
The challenge is that teams are made of unique people with different views about the world. If people don’t buy in to the principles, the ethos, the rules, the mission or whatever your team decides to call them, then the discord becomes uncomfortable and friction can stand in the way of progress.
So why bother to point out such an apparent fact? Too often we see well-meaning and carefully crafted mission and value statements that are met with eye rolls. Those initiatives seem to share a simple oversight: The same amount of energy and creativity should go into agreement and alignment as the principles themselves. Such statements must also be allowed to embrace input, adapt and change, otherwise they become dogma, which creative critical minds delight in undermining.
Richard Bravman the great former CEO of Symbol Technologies said something which has stayed with me for a long time. In discussing a cultural program being launched in the company, he explained, "Culture is really an agreement among people on how to work."
If you rearrange that idea, tenets that describe how and why we work and that are true to the people who work together have the potential to become your culture. If it's your culture, then you have built something that is sure to last and to bring satisfaction and success to your work.
What I learned from Bravman, and have noticed whenever I forget, is when you take the time to make sure how your work rings true with the people you work with, the results, the journey and the relationships all turn out a lot brighter.
Published in IDSA's quarterly journal INNOVATION Winter 2013.
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