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Showing Respect for Culture Transformation Published: Sunday, February 3, 2008 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel (Coco) Morales

This is statement to executives and managers who want to understand the profound, difficult and complex task facing them today:  how to transform the work culture of their respective organizations without exposing them to unacceptable risk and without causing harm to the people.  In order to achieve this principal goal they will have to: a) Decipher the initial conditions required to launch and accelerate transformation; b) Generate a strategic vision and business success model; c) Align the organization along the critical path; d) Advance a team(s) process architecture for keeping results on track; e) Incorporate new knowledge for doing things; and, f) Manage human capital in a different way.

Culture transformation is about creating the resiliency advantage to meet every challenge head on…  I am always asked “how do we know that we have achieve progress on these matters?”  The empirical answers is when you can observe that: 1) People are coping with high levels of ongoing disruptive change; 2) There is high energy even under constant pressure; 3) Teams are bouncing back from setback; 4) The whole organization is overcoming adversities; 5) Change to a new way of working and living is occurring and there is acknowledgement that the old ways are no longer possible; 6) ALL THIS IS DONE WITHOUT ACTING DYSFUNCTIONAL.

Just to quickly review, culture consist of shared mental programs that condition individual responses to their environment.  This has to be taken very seriously if you really want to contribute to an organizational culture change and transformation. Remember, culture is: 1) Shared; 2) Learned and enduring; 3) A powerful influence on behavior; 3) Systematic and organized; 4) Largely invisible or untangible; 5) It may be tight or loose (formal or informal), or both.

Acquiring cultural intelligence is about developing people skills.  It involves focusing on leaders, managers, supervisors; and also the operators.  The first are more difficult to deal with because they have more investment in the status quo, and their mental programs are crystallized at universities and at professional organizations.  Also, leadership use to be a candid invention of those who want to be in charge and preserve the status quo.  These day we are teaching that everyone is a leader and people exercise leadership everyday.

Making profound sense of leadership is hard enough, and evenmore if we have to face the complexities of culture transformation, meaning that you will have to face differences.

These are the things that culturally intelligent leaders have to know: 1) Leadership is largely in the minds and hearts of people, and there is no space for hypocrisy.  People will always know; 2) Leadership is about inspiring people through vision, communication, organization, knowledge and accessibility; 3) Leadership is about task orientation, but most of all about a relationship orientation.

Some people need more leading than others.  Factors such as organizational norms and educational levels of people can act as substitutes for leadership.  For example, a group of research scientists typically need very little in the way of task orientation from their leader, though there is always opportunity for helping to build better relationships.  They may know what to do, but they don’t know how to manage emotions.

A culture change intelligent leader will need to use knowledge and mindfulness to develop and model or repertoire of behaviors that can be adapted to different and changing situations.  Doing so involves knowledge of the likely expectations of people in different settings.  Through mindfulness observational leaders can refine these expectations overtime.  Also, leaders need knowledge of their own preferred style to establish a balance between relationship and task.

While initially difficult to manage a balance between relationship and task, it becomes easier if this dynamic is approach with respect and seriousness, and with each iteration of knowledge, mindfulness, and behavioral skills.

Finally, leaders have to be aware that there are plenty of good ideas within their organizations if only they can be backed with power and emotion to be brought into reality.  

 


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