Transforming Fear to Joy

Culture Change: Keep your Values, Change your Ideals

Recently, I worked with my local urban transit corporation to transform their command and control culture.  Why?  The internal relationships between management and bus operators brought them to the edge of strike action.  Resentment in the workplace had become so widespread that bullying was the order of the day.  No one group owned the label of bully as I witnessed managers, union staff and bus operators bullying across as well as within their ranks.

Such prolonged resentment and aggression within the workplace (or any other place) ultimately leads to an implosion.  In our organizational life, we witness this internal collapse as low productivity — high numbers of grievances in unionized environments, errors in non-unionized environments, high sick leave and turnaround in both environments.  The outcome is the organization essentially grinds to a halt and bankruptcy ensues.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon work-life experience.  Fortunately, the formula for changing cultures is well known and simple, but not easy.

1.  Talk the Vision – consult with, listen to and build agreement with all stakeholders
2.  Walk the Vision – role model the new culture’s attitudes, values, goals and practices
3.  Recruit, reward and retain for the Vision – align your people, planet and profit goals

In attempting to create this cultural alignment, herein lies the complexity — values are subjective and individual.  My own professional affiliations within the Socio-Technical Systems Roundtable (STS-RT) increased in complexity because of the uniqueness and breadth in individual member’s attitudes, values, goals and practices.  Rather than agreeing on a shared list of innumerable values, we recognized agreement needed to occur around a shared set of ideals that are longer lasting and more universal than all the individual values.  The ideals we brought back to our larger community for agreement are—

1.  Humanity – dignity and spirituality
2.  Community – dialogue and belonging
3.  Nurturance – meaningfulness
4.  Beauty – collective creativity/participative democracy

Of course, the real test of these ideals is not only within my international association of STS practitioners but with clients around the world as well as with those of you reading this blog.

Another interesting ‘beta’ test of these ideals is to compare them with futurists’ trend analyses.  On June 19, 2011, The Globe and Mail published its most recent megatrends picture, Five key trends likely to shape the world of work in coming years.  In a nutshell, they are —

1.  GREYING WORK FORCE:  aging population, non-mandatory retirement, “unretirement.”
2.  GOING GLOBAL:  overseas experience, multi-cultural familiarity, bi- and tri-lingualism.
3.  COLLABORATION:  social media; innovation-collaboration teams within and across organizations, suppliers, customers and rivals.
4.  CONTRACT WORK:  agile work-force requirements, flexible free-agents, job insecurity.
5.  REMOTE WORK:  the 9-to-5 decline, mobile technology and mobile locations.

As you can see from these global trends, the mixture and breadth of values within one organization is destined to grow not shrink.  The real question to be asked is, “Will organizations understand the need to form and collaborate around a higher set of ideals?”

How about you?  Are humanity, community, nurturance and beauty significant in your life?  How do you express these ideals on a daily basis?

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Picture of Author: Helen Maupin

Author: Helen Maupin

Helen is passionate about transforming fear into love — from her, for her, for all. She expresses her commitment to transformation through writing poetry, self-awareness and yoga books, co-designing organizations into adaptive enterprises and deepening her daily meditation and yoga practices.


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