Culture as a Collective Skill
Culture is, “The way things are done around here,” and also its the way, “I do things around here.” Culture is the collective attitudes and behavior characteristics of a particular social group. Culture is Brandon in operations, Ashley in accounting, and Aki in engineering. Culture is marketing and culture is the C-suite. And culture was not built in a day, culture is built brick by brick, day by day, fractured, repaired, updated, and sometimes destroyed. Culture comes from the Latin word cultura meaning tending, growing, cultivation.
It’s meant to be tended by everyone. The old cultures passed down their cherished attitudes and behaviors in stories and totems. Today, most of us don’t understand our impact on culture, or even, “What is our company culture?”
“But culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandate. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of “how things are done around here.” Someone with authority can demand compliance, but they can’t dictate optimism, trust, conviction, or creativity.”
Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule
Harvard Business Review, June 20, 2017
If culture is everyone, then it takes everyone to change culture. And there is the key reason why so many change initiatives go wrong, the change asks for a big culture modifications, but the culture doesn’t know how to change.
“You want me to change the way I do things, but changing the way I do this also changes other ways I do things and you are not showing me how to change those!”
Everyone at Some Point in Their Career
So if we all are culture, can’t we all learn to change culture? Can tending, growing and cultivating our culture become a collective skill we all learn? Can we together work to knowingly manage our culture? Wouldn’t we be much more nimble if everyone knows how to change culture? This is why culture training is valuable.
We can if we think of managing culture as a collective skill. If we learn about the meaning of culture, we understand our own version of culture, and then we learn techniques to collectively change our culture we can become tenders of culture. Culture becomes another item under collective management, not some secret agreement between talent development, marketing and the CEO.
My Culture as a Collective Skill course teaches the meaning and features of culture, as well as illustrating how culture is created over time. The course provides techniques and practices to become active culture managers. Lastly, the skills learned in my other classes become a toolbox for day to day actions, and thus contribute to everyone’s ability to become skilled culture tenders.