Culture: An Impediment to Organizational Growth?

The word “Culture” is liberally used by Business Leaders and Managers. I often wonder whether they understand the impact of the word, even as they utter it. The reason for this disillusion is that, nowhere does their own action, leave alone that of their organization, match the words. So to begin with, Culture may be defined by three phrases – Values, Beliefs and Assumptions.

Values‘ are beliefs handed down from the past by experience and ‘Assumptions’ are beliefs that define the future by experiment. The in-between Belief is the Presence in the current life, an amalgamation between the past Learning and the future Intention.

It is very clear that one domino to the other and impacts most importantly the future of an enterprise. Leaders and Managers are necessarily the facilitators of this transition; the departure from the past to the future from the present. The important questions to ask here are;

  1. Do we understand this concept and address it in the context of their business enterprise?
  2. Do we realize that just addressing this fundamental step is the way to Invent, Innovate and / or Improvise the enterprise to growth?
  3. And that, such culture must be reflected in the actions through Program (Strategy), Process (Customer Focus) and Product (Applications)?

The power of transformation in our individual or organizational lives is the ability to transition continuously from the unconscious, to the sub-conscious and onto the conscious state of being. Just because we are walking and talking and eating does not mean we are living and / or are conscious. It is only when our intellect is focused on harnessing the energy for the purpose we understand from our inner being, are we conscious. Such focus is evident in every action an individual undertakes and the same applies for the enterprise. This is also highlighted by Arie De Geus in his book, “The Living Company”.

The state of consciousness in an organizational context is the state where an enterprise is not only able to meet the stated requirements (expectations) but also the unstated requirements (aspirations) of its customers. Growth lies in bridging this gap between expectations and aspirations just as much as the complete surrender in the case of an individual to the bidding of a higher force in a selfless pursuit of excellence.

M F Hussain, the famous Indian painter gave up his Indian Citizenship, favoring the Union of Qatar, recently. Most television channels were ready to sensationalize this story and devoted airtime for the same. But the man himself was very eloquent in his statement of purpose. He said “he was taking up the citizenship as he wanted to complete some of the unfinished projects during his lifetime and the current arrangement allowed him to do so”. When pressed further, he also had a very simple message to the leaders of the country; to understand that the future when wanting to learn about the present would look for cultural artifacts much more than their judiciary and legislation. Archeologists, anthropologists and historians all rely on culture more than written texts to validate and age and its legacy.

In the corporate context this message should resonate. The future will have very little meaning for the blips and bumps of the stock market. Leaders and Managers must be able to create and leave cultural artifacts that will serve the future purpose of use and re-use, which would be a true testimony of their performance. It would be a fallacy to think that building the artifacts of the future would mean neglecting the current requirements; far from it, the current economic situation especially with respect to the Banking and Financial Services sector has proven that excessive short term focus is a certain death knell to the institution and its culture is the first casualty.

Culture should be a motivating and not an intimidating factor for the people in an organization. Only then can it be a facilitator of growth. The organization must be provide guard rails as in principles and allow creative failure to enable learning from experience and experimenting for the future growth. Such a cross – point is important to make contextual relevance to people in an enterprise to take intelligent decisions about their future and be prepared to embrace transformation / Change.

About Subbu Iyer

Subbu Iyer is an Innovation & Transformation Leader as with 28 years of serving customers globally. He is currently the Chief Designer & Transformer at Energizing Innovation, an enterprise that is being founded to facilitate continuous growth in enterprises and as a consequence create societal wealth. The Radical Shift that this enterprise intends to employ is focusing on the Potential rather than the Performance of a business. He has been a serial entrepreneur and an intrapreneur in his past life, having founded Nihilent Technologies and Nandaki Systems besides being associated in senior leadership roles with firms such as Coopers & Lybrand, Cambridge Technology Partners, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Technologies and Steria.
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