Changing Culture in Hard Times . . . the Easy Way

Monday, June 1, 2009 by Tripp Babbitt
I have heard over and over agin HR professionals fretting over the culture of their organizations.  To me it is puzzling, why is there low morale?  You mean the secret formula hasn’t made it to your ears or eyes?

OK, I’ll let you in on the secret.  The problem is that our thinking is old, not Civil War old mind you, but I consider anything pre-Titanic old.  We have based our thinking on that of Frederick Winslow Taylor and AP Sloan.  So what does that mean?  It means that we have functional separation of work and separated the decision-making from the work and the worker.  It means we have introduced entrapping technology to dumb down the worker so that they check their brains at the door.  It means we have built systems with scripts, policies and procedures that that allow little opportunity to innovate or serve the customer.  It means hitting financial and performance targets that we know degrade service to the customer, but allow the worker to achieve an award for poor service and increased costs.  All of this is command and control thinking at work.

So what if we thought differently about the work? You know, made it more interesting.  Put the decision-making back with the work instead of some management report that can’t tell you what is really going on.  Gave the worker new measures that weren’t top-down, but outside-in allowing the worker to figure out the best way to serve the customer and liberating method.  Allow the worker to pull technology that enables their work vs. the push method that entraps them. Now that would be cool for any organizational change management program to do all that!  There is a method for doing all this called systems thinking.

However moving from command and control thinking to systems thinking requires us to take a different approach then what ISO, Lean, Six Sigma, TQM or other change management programs have to offer.  Culture really isn’t that hard to change, are you ready to think differently?

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from "Understanding Your Organization as a System."   Reach him on Twitter at

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