The linked podcast is an interesting look at how the increasing amount of requirements placed on US Army Company Commanders is resulting in a Culture of Ethical Fading. The central theme of the PodCast rotates largely around the idea that when you overload individuals with too many “Requirements” their ability to act in subtle unethical ways increases.
As a former member of military service, there was indeed a culture of ticking off or “pencil whipping” lower priority tasks as completed, even though they weren’t. (Do you really need to drag out 45 small generators, fill them with gas, run them up for an hour, and drain them dry each week to know they are serviceable?)
The more interesting bit that this Podcast illuminates is a broader concept of the fundamental role the external Environment and the Individual play in the resulting culture that is formed.
The Environment is fairly stable and while we can isolate from risks, change regulations and such, the changes are typically slow. Disruptive change can occur due to natural causes or the adoption of a new technology but the nature of the Environment is to settle back down into stability for much longer periods than instability.
The Individual is the sum total of their Ideology, education, experience, trust, perception, etc. much of which can be taught, indoctrinated, or demonstrated to be useful and adopted.
The Culture in this context is the resulting product when groups of people interact based on a common indoctrination and within a common environment. If either the Environment or the Individual’s ideology change, the Culture changes.
So why is this related to corporate management?
As companies grow, we change both the Environment and the underlying Ideology. Some roles may require more specialization, some roles split into separate positions. With an influx of new employees, the corporate level of knowledge may decrease, new Executives, plot new courses or new demands are made on existing employees.
Many times when companies grow, the idea is to “preserve the culture” which can result in an attempt to mandate a cultural measure. These are actually a change in the Central tenets and Responsibilities communicated to the Individual and the result is the Culture changes….
We cannot dictate culture. A desire to rigidly adhere to an existing culture during times of disruptive change will not by sheer willpower result in the desired outcome. A company could be defined as a work hard, play hard culture, as a task culture, a clan culture, a constructive culture, but these are essentially observations of what the culture already is. If you print out a Culture statement to post on a wall it’s either an observation or a goal and will not by itself create the culture.
A desire to rigidly adhere to an existing culture during times of disruptive change will not by sheer willpower result in the desired outcome. A company could be defined as a work hard, play hard culture, as a task culture, a clan culture, a constructive culture, but these are essentially observations of what the culture already is. If you print out a Culture statement to post on a wall it’s either an observation or a goal and will not by itself create the culture.
A further example:
Competitive Reality TV shows such as Survivor are a good view into the power of Environment and Ideology to affect the culture. Once you pit groups of people against each other, add politics and million dollar prize, you see otherwise normal people act in very surprising ways. The Individual is the same one that sits next to you on the train or passes you in the shopping center, but changing the environment and/or ideology can make for some good TV!