Monday, March 12, 2007


Changing the culture of the enterprise...

The Agile Manifesto talks about the importance of the right process but also acknowledges that the people using the process are more important...

If we acknowledge that Process is not a substitute for competence and that people are a critical factor to success then could we conclude that the biggest return on investment would be to instill a moral compass within our culture?

Before outsourcing, many folks used to talk about their employers with pride and joy. Nowadays, it is difficult to hear someone giving praise for their employer except in situations where bonuses are extreme. Even in those situations, when the bonuses shrink then culture starts its descent.

Recently, I read an interesting blog that calls out a perspective that I am hearing more and more. Likewise, magazines such as CIO are publishing more articles on cultural considerations and are talking about how to improve the culture of the enterprise. They talk about the need for leadership but haven't defined this word in any way that is meaningful.

Definitions of leadership range from instilling a vision to being used interchangably with management where the answer isn't really on either side of the spectrum. At least folks are starting to ask themselves how do you break the habits and attitudes that permeate everything? Is it through slavish adherence to processes and indoctrination that feels a lot like: repeat after me, your call is important to us?

My prediction is that folks will get cultural change wrong. Society answers to the notion of the quarter or the year-end review where culture has its own cycle that doesn't align with fiscal considerations. Cultural change only happens slowly and gradually and is a manifestation of not only true leadership but also is a mirror into how the masses within the enterprise think and act.

I have noticed that certain discussions in CIO magazine when it comes to culture are never really talked about. What if there was an open conversation where folks weren't rewarded for seeking the path of least resistance? What if reward systems weren't based on managing perceptions (aka performance-based pay) but in terms of sticking your neck out regardless of its outcome?

When it remains easier to complain to colleagues about how the culture sucks than to actually do anything about it, cultural change is always doomed to fail...

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