"Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple."

Steve Jobs

"Please explain the problem to me slowly, as I do not understand things quickly."

Albert Einstein

"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors."

African proverb

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader"

John Quincy Adams

"I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Culture is what you repeat repeatedly

Culture, in organisational language, is often said to mean, “what we do around here.” Often culture can seem ambiguous and less important than hard measures such as revenue, delivery or productivity. Yet leaders usually discover the true value of culture when confronted with negative staff behaviours or obstacles to strategy implementation.

The great management thinker Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and this has proved true so often, as the following two famous examples show:

In the late nineties car manufacturers Daimler and Chrysler merged. It proved a disaster largely because of incompatible cultures. The German culture, which had a much more formal approach, dominated the new business and levels of staff engagement in the American divisions plummeted. A joke circulating Chrysler at the time was, “Q: How do you pronounce DaimlerChrysler?... A: ‘Daimler’, the ‘Chrysler’ is silent.” Daimler sold Chrysler in 2007.

In 2000 Time Warner shares were selling at around $72. By 2008 they had dropped to less than $15. The reason was the failed merger with AOL. Richard Parsons, president of Time Warner said, “I remember saying at a vital board meeting where we approved this, that life was going to be different going forward because they’re very different cultures, but I have to tell you, I underestimated how different.”

Culture is present whenever you have people together – in businesses, teams, schools, churches and even families. That’s why leaders wisely examine reproducing the culture they want more of whilst also considering methods to reduce the culture they want less of.  The question is how? Here are three tips to help you shape the culture you want:

  • Rather like a good garden culture requires constant attention or it will become overgrown with thistles and weeds.
  • You cannot delegate culture management to someone else. Every member of the organisation is responsible for contributing to the culture but the most senior leaders are ultimately responsible for ensuring the culture has the right shape.
  • Culture is what you repeat repeatedly. Ask yourself what you want to stop/start/continue repeating and action accordingly. 

This last tip gets to the heart of the matter. If culture really is "what we do around here" then this has only happened because human beings have chosen to repeatedly repeat thoughts, actions and behaviours. What do you want to start repeating in your organisation?