Culture Shocking

I blogged a little while ago about the need for individuals and leaders to carefully look at their role in those aspects of their organisational culture that they don’t like or feel needs to change. About how we need to check that we are not part of the problem.

When it comes to culture, you are either part of it or you oppose it. In the middle of it, going along with it, following the flow of it, aware or unaware. Or you are fighting against it, trying to change it, standing up against it. There is no middle ground. If you work there, you are part of the system, somewhere, somehow. I usually try and avoid false dichotomies. But I genuinely cannot see a third option in this space.

When you go somewhere new, there is often a period of culture shock. It is easy, in those early days to see what needs to change, how to make a difference. Culture is seen in all its nakedness; the good, the bad, and the organisationally ugly. We look with fresh eyes. We can spot the gaps and the opportunities. But here’s the thing. It doesn’t last. Because we get used to the culture. We become accustomed to the language, the situation, the people, the way things are done around here. We cease to see what is in front of us. Develop a blind spot. Unknown becomes know. And comfortable.

And then, slowly, without noticing, we may just become that thing that we dislike the most. Because it is easier to go with the system, than it is to fight against it.

Changing a culture is hard. The perceived wisdom is that it takes years. Culture is strong, resistant. And when one voice stands alone, the system tries to pull you back.

Standing for change, creating the conditions, being the dissenting voice, is usually the difficult choice.

But if not you, then who?