Are You Flushing Away Change?

“Zappos isn’t alone in its efforts to try to engineer serendipity into the workplace. Years ago, Steve Jobs designed the headquarters for Pixar with centrally located bathrooms so people would run into each other. AT&T, Plantronics, Twitter, Capgemini, and many other companies have sent teams to co-working spaces, where they work alongside people from other companies. Many people think the way to encourage chance encounters and spur innovation is to make companies more like cities. Zappos is opening its lobby as a free co-working space so people can mingle with employees from other companies and visitors, like in a hotel lobby. “Those ground floor connection points, we see that as magic.” (Daft 2016)

I’m back in school, we are five weeks into the term. My class this quarter is on building organizations for the 21st century. It is one of my favorite classes so far as it is deeply rooted in change and organizational structure and the impact of process and technology on outcome. I am studying what I live and in the process finding out I am pretty darn good at what I do.

The paragraph above was pulled from my textbook assignment for the week. The top was on the benefit of collisions. Not the kind you have in your car or at the grocery store, but the happenstance moments where two people unexpectedly run into each other. The author cited a study that found voluntary collaboration increased by 20% for every 100 feet of special overlap between employees. Studies also found that in organizations where people were forced to ‘collide’ change happened easier and more often.

Until I read this I would never have thought about bathrooms as a change vehicle, but I guess I should have. Reading how centralizing bathrooms helped drive creativity and change at Pixar reminded me of a client I had a few years ago. The firm has been around about 100 years and has a very hard time changing. Despite a massive change initiative a few years ago I just this week heard they are reverting back to very old school thinking, much to their detriment and possibly at risk their long-term survival. I had the opportunity, while working with this firm, to visit many of their offices and at least one them was legendary for its bathrooms. In what I would consider a small sized office space they have nearly 20 bathrooms. There are so many that it was a game for new visitors to see how many they could use in a short stay.

The number of bathrooms had been the brain child of the founder. He wanted enough bathrooms that people would never have to wait for one. The goal being they would not waste time going to the bathroom or run into someone else at the bathroom and stand and talk. He was trying to prevent collisions. In many ways his goal was successful, as he also did not believe in change unless absolutely necessary. More than 40 years after his death the company still struggles to remove itself from that legacy. I made lots of recommendations while working with them, looking back I wish I had suggested boarding up half the bathrooms.

Too often in business we are looking for the fastest, most efficient way to get a task done, but the collision concept and the office of bathrooms serve as a reminder that it is the wasted time we try to cut that often hides the innovation and creativity we are striving for. What will you do differently to allow yourself and your employees more time to crash creatively?


Daft, Richard L.. Organization Theory and Design (Page 421). South-Western College Pub. Kindle Edition.

Moving Beyond a One Night Stand

The calendar flips from December to January and the world is reborn, supposedly. For some reason we treat this change much differently than we do any other page turn. January is the month of joining health clubs, losing weight, giving up smoking, and being organized. In February we still have hope but are faltering. By March it is back to business as usual. Maybe we’ll try again next year.

I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about the difference between resolutions and life style changes. I am trying to figure out how this time around I have what I believe to be a long term change with how I view food versus all my past attempts.

A little bit of history for those that don’t know me well. I have fought with my weight and food since I was 5 years old. I was a skinny child until I was sick for almost a full year with tonsillitis and they finally took them out. From that point forward I have been fat or obese. But being overweight for me has always been a frustration, because at the same time I fight with anorexia. Despite what one might think to look at me, I don’t like food. I am happy going days without eating. I genuinely do not feel hunger and eating is something I just forget to do unless something reminds me. I have NEVER eaten enough to weigh what I do and that has always been a pain point for me. I always joked I was allergic to food, who knew it was more real than joke. My weight has ranged from 185 when I graduated high school to at least 335 in 2009. Late in 2009 I found a personal trainer and started diligently trying to deal with my weight. I got down to about 220, but I was still miserable. It required deprivation, living on chicken breast and being in the gym 10 hours a week. Then despite doing all that my weight started to climb. Nothing worked. I was doing everything they said and it just got worse. I mostly gave up and accepted my life was going to exist around 300 lbs. That was fine until I started having more and more digestive problems, by last summer everything I ate made me sick, bloated and miserable. And when I say everything I mean a piece of lettuce would do me in. For someone who doesn’t like to eat this just fueled the fire.

The mantra in change leadership is “change happens when the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change”. I hit that point by the fall. I was tired of being in pain and my blood sugar was teetering on the cusp of diabetes land. I decided to make a change. It wasn’t going to be about weight (I long ago gave up on feeling I can master that) but about figuring out what I could eat that wouldn’t cause pain. I had no clue what I was doing so I said ok let’s start by cutting out grains (I have known my whole life I can literally gain 10 lbs by eating a slice of bread) and processed sugar. It is also worth pointing out that I, up to that point, hated to cook and did not know how. I was the queen of take out, reservations and frozen foods! I don’t know if deciding to start cooking was a conscious choice or a requirement that just happened as I started to eliminate food groups, but either way it showed up on the journey.

Fast forward 6 months, I now eat 100% paleo when I am at home (and do my best on the road). Paleo in the popular media is ‘not eating what the cave men didn’t have access to’ but at its core is really about eliminating foods that trigger the immune system to react. For me I avoid dairy, grains, processed sugar, soy and other high immune foods. I also limit my exposure to foods in the nightshade family because they cause a lot of my pain. I have learned to cook like a pro and have become really talented at converting every day recipes into paleo versions.

That’s all great, you just learned a lot about me, but that wasn’t the goal of this blog post was it. What I realized this week while hosting a friend and client at my house and cooking together all week, was that this is different for me. This isn’t like my past diets, this is who I am now. I have made a true lifestyle change. I did it in such an unplanned way that I needed to go back and examine it in hindsight to understand how and why it worked when I wasn’t trying but never did when I was trying.

I’ve identified a couple obvious differences between when we set goals versus when we make true life changes.

1. Setting the alarm clock! For most of us when we start out on a goal we tie a time frame to it. I am going to give up sugar for 30 days, I am staying off Facebook for Lent, I’ll give up drinking until we go on vacation in August. Even if the change is something we know we should or want to do long term we tied and end date to it. Having this end date, and counting towards it, mentally sets up for eventual return to our old ways. We set ourselves up to fail at a given point in time!

2. Bread and Water for the Prisoner! With the majority of goals, such as losing weight or breaking a bad habit, our chosen path is self-punishment. We are sacrificing, we are giving up something, we are removing from our lives. And let’s face it, that sucks! It leaves a void, it focuses us on the loss and it creates a negative mindset. We feel deprived and spend our time pining for how or when we can get it back.

In a lifestyle change we come at things very differently. Not only do we say goodbye permanently from day 1, but if done right we find something different to put in the void that is as equally satisfying and meets the same emotional needs and desires.

I never set out to give up bread for a day, a week or a month. I accepted that grain did not make me feel good and we broke up. Sure when I am on the road and can’t find good replacements there are ‘late night texts’ where I beg it to come back *smile*, but I always regret it in the daylight. The key to success for me has been in finding equivalent replacements. When I say I am eating paleo curious friends start to google recipes and tell me they are considering trying them too. I think this is a path to failure. It leads back to feeling punished. It is saying to yourself ‘I want pizza but I am eating healthy so let me try this recipe for pork’. Eventually the desire for pizza will win out and you will revert. Much more successful is to admit you want the pizza and to find a way to have healthy pizza (be that with a great paleo recipe or to use cauliflower *gross* as a crust or another alternative).

These to me seemed the obvious differences, but this morning as I was making pancakes (of course grain free) it hit me, there is a third more subtle difference in a lifestyle change. Much like my previous post mentioned, you change the dialog. I realized that this change took for me because I had a different discussion with my body and for the first time in over 40 years we have reached a peace accord and it is one that works long term for both sides, so it doesn’t feel like a deal I am trying to escape from.

We have agreed that I will listen when it is telling me that a food is not friendly and stop eating it. My body has agreed that yes at times I will cheat or slip up and I will be in pain or gain weight but it will be a short term event not a pattern and as a reward I will feel better and the scale will drop a little at a time (so far about 40 lbs btw).

This was a very long way to get to the central thought, but lifestyle change is about acceptance not avoidance! It is about finding peace and satisfaction in a new way and embracing a visit or two to the old way but realizing it is that, a visit, from the beginning, and loving a new ‘home’.

PS All the photos in this post are paleo foods I have made in my home recently!

Change that Funky Music….

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018. What do you have in-store for this year???? How are you going to make this the year of change, growth and adventure? If you need ideas feel free to hit me up at, I have some great (and easy) recommendations.

For me this year is going to be about professional growth. I am another year into my Master’s degree (with hopes of being done in either 2018 or 2019) and am starting to think about my capstone. I am also exploring ways to get Saddle Up Consulting off the ground.

I am currently prepping for a weekend session with a couple. I love doing this kind of work and always know that once we are ten minutes in the session’s needed direction will guide itself, but I spend a lot of time thinking about what I am going to do to kick the session off. What topic or exercise do we need to do to overcome the inertia and get us rolling. How do I build an atmosphere that feels safe and also opens up people to the level of honesty and vulnerability that is required to truly make change. The answer is different for every person and ever client. As I have been approaching this project my thoughts have begun to center on our “internal soundtrack”. This is the ongoing dialog we have with ourselves, both consciously and subconsciously. I believe this dialog is much more important in our lives than the things we say or do externally. This is the true who we are and why we do. It is not colored by the filters we put in place to keep others happy or to be liked. It is our real us. It is our true motivators, our fears, our strengths and our hopes. It is the who we want to be, the who we are afraid we are and the who we don’t want to be all rolled up into one, sometimes loud, mess in our head.

This soundtrack has many components, and maybe I will do a series of blog posts about the different pieces, but at their highest level the soundtrack is driven by are we an optimist, pessimist or realist; are we introverted or extroverted; do we have an internal or external locus of control; are we driven more by logic or feelings; are we more creative or analytical. It is also shaped by our upbringing, our experiences, our fears and our successes.

Had you asked me a decade ago I would have said the symphony was static and we were stuck with it. I no longer feel that way. This soundtrack, I am beginning to theorize, is also where change has to originate to be successful. Before we can exact the behavior of change, we first have to change the tune we live by or are held back from living by! I believe the musical score is our sheet music and until we read off a different tune we can want change but not make it.

Part of how I came to this epiphany is my own journey. I know I changed radically over the last 7 years. The timing aligns well with when horses entered my life. Prior to horses I was a pessimist with an external locus of control. I had spent a lot of time and energy feeling like a victim of my childhood, my medical issues, my body and the world in general. Things happened to me! But through horses, through maturity, through finally surrounding myself with good people the music started to change. I saw that I was in control of my emotions (the music changed from “people make me feel…” to “I am choosing to feel…”. I learned that everything has a purpose, even though I might not like something that goes on, it is has a reason in my life and is pointing me to where I need to be (what I now calling living with gratitude). I found out that I was stronger and more capable than I ever imagined and that I had to make things happen not wait for them. This rearranging of the orchestra in my head didn’t happen overnight, it didn’t even happen consciously at times, but I see it now looking backwards.

So how does one start to change the tape? First you have to be brutally honest with yourself what the current script in your head is. This is hard. Facing who you really are, versus who you think you should be or who others tell you to be is hard. I have referred to it before in this blog as “know your own crazy”. You have to be willing to look in those dark corners, and sometimes that takes having someone you trust help you translate what is in there. We tend to live in denial of ourselves and another person can often help with that.

Once you know what your tune is you need to decide what of it works for you and what doesn’t. What parts of the lyrics are helping you and you want to hang on to and what is no longer serving you well. Once you know what you aren’t happy keeping it is time to replace. When the old music comes on, stop the playlist, do a shuffle, pick another tune. If your music has a tendency to start with “I want to, but I can’t because………….”, change to the song that starts with “I want to do this, I know it will be hard, but to be successful I need to…………..”. As soon as you hear that old familiar chorus of “This person makes me feel so angry/upset/frustrated/annoyed”, stop yourself and change to the melody that is written around “What in this situation is triggering me to feel the way I do, what in me is this bothering”. It really is as basic as changing the station on the radio. You just have to be willing to do it! The great part is over time, the new tunes become your earworms and are stuck in your head!!!!

Want to start to understand your current soundtrack. This test on Locus of Control is a great place to start!

Here is to the beautiful new music of 2018!!!!

All Aboard….Be Your Own Conductor

“If a train doesn’t stop at your station, it’s not your train” Marianne Williamson

I love analogies and visualizations. I think they give us a great way to look at a difficult or complex situation without being as personally tied to it. The step back often gives a new perspective or clarity.

A few days ago a friend posted a story about riding a train. The purpose of the parable was to help those dealing with the death of a loved one, but as I read it I saw more. What a great way to look at life, as a train ride, full of different passengers, train changes, different stations. It really is perfect. It provides a great framework for accepting change, for dealing with relationships and challenges. We are born and we board the train. Then the journey begins.

Station changes and connecting trains

As much as we would all love it, life’s journey is never direct. Life is full of plot twists, unexpected re-directions and things out of our control. As humans we are pre-programmed to see these as negatives. We lost a job, we had to move, our favorite restaurant closed. Why? That stinks! I’m sad or frustrated or depressed! What no one ever seems to tell us, as children, is that this is normal and even more importantly, it is healthy and helps us grow and move forward. These are our station changes and connections, they redirect us, they put us on a new path in our journey. Instead of fighting them and putting them off as long as we can, the trick to the trip is to embrace them as the next adventure.

When I was younger I took a train vacation with a friend. We went from Hudson, New York to Miami, Florida. It wasn’t direct. It involved 3 different trains, it involved about 20 station stops. We didn’t stand and cry each time the conductor told us we had to get off, we were excited, we talked about what the new train might have different, about where we’d sit, about what we’d see.

This is now how I try to live my life. When a curve ball is thrown my way I try to come at it with excitement and anticipation. Instead of being frustrated that my plans got changed, I look for what is to come. I hope for where it will take me and what it will bring to my life. I live believing everything for a reason and everything to bring me to this moment I belong in. That is a hard lesson to get it. For me it took a lot of hurt, pain and tears. But I finally embrace the train changes and connections.

Passenger and travel mates

Nothing in harder in life that the end of a treasured relationship. Whether it ends due to a death a breakup or just moving on, saying good-bye is always hard. We often stay longer than we should. We try to make it work long after it has stopped being good. We cry over the loss and we pine for the past. We want more time and more memories.

On a train, people come and go. Some start the journey with us and travel for thousands of miles. Others join just go from one station to the next. We share our part of the ride, make our memories and part with well wishes. Once in a while someone leaves our journey and gets back on at a future station, these are my favorites.

I read a book many years ago, The Celestine Prophecy, that radically changed my view on people and relationships. One of the central tenets of the book is that people cross our paths for a reason. How long they are in our life is related to their purpose and that when people exit our life it is because their mission has been accomplished. For those that keep crossing our path it is because they have not completed their role with us (or us with them). This idea brought me a lot of comfort about the people I have had to part ways with in life, it gave it meaning instead of being only a negative. I see the train analogy in much the same way. People join our travels to fulfill either something we need to learn or experience, or that they do. When that outcome has been met we separate. That may take a day, a year or a lifetime.

Your train ride

As we move into the new year and make resolutions and goals, examine your journey. Are you fighting leaving a train not going where you need to? Should you make a connection and head in a new direction? Are you holding on to sadness over passengers who have changed trains or holding others on your train who need to end their ride with you? Be your own conductor and take control of your train!

Eyes Up. Heels Down

Shoes9I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about what a good leader is and particularly what makes me a good leader. Part of this pensiveness is coming from the class I am taking this term. It is on leadership development and though not what I expected the course to be some of the readings and discussion are interesting to ponder. The remainder of the exploration is coming from starting the new business. Deciding to coach others has been an emotional journey. While it is what I do every day with businesses, there was still that part of me that struggled with being “good enough” to have people pay me to do one-on-one coaching. I wrestled a lot with what makes me worthy.

Many years ago my boss said to me “when we get you in front of a client magic happens”. I agree. I have great abilities to move people out of their intertia and open to change. I can win over those others can’t. Figuring out why, though, has been a long process and I come to different answers at different times in my journey. Doing my class reading today I came to another answer. My magic is the ability to help people look up and consider dreaming again.

When I think about the great leaders in history; Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, they were living in terrible times. People were hurting, depressed, needy and living without. Yet these men were able to rally their cause against all the odds. They got people to look up.

Too often we get mired down in the heaviness of the here and now and lose sight of the future, or that a future even exists. It is very hard when you are struggling not to get tunnel vision on your immediate burdens and challenges and forget there can be a different outcome. When you have been in the same situation for too long it is so easy to become jaded and agree to the current as the inevitable. I see this every day with clients who have been frustrated and disillusioned for so long that they have just accepted their battles as part of the norm. They have lost hope of a better future and find ways to make the intolerable tolerable. They bury their heads, look down and trudge through. It is my job to relight that notion that a better future is possible. It is my job to remind them it is ok to dream for more. It is my job to get them to want to make change.

This difference in “line of sight” is what separates managers from leaders. A manager works in the eyes down world. They make sure that the here and now is taken care of. They ensure the status quo and equilibrium. A leader’s job is watching over the horizon and inspiring others to want to look forward also. The first step in sharing a vision is helping others to want to see at all.

I get it now. I get why I am worthy…I am really good at getting people to look up again!

It’s Time to Saddle Up!!!!!

My heart has been calling me to make a leap of faith for a few months now. I knew there was something I should be doing but wasn’t. After a weekend with a great friend I knew I had to do this. It was time, so here it is.

I have decided to start my own business, Saddle Up Consulting. NO (before anyone panics) I am not leaving my full time job. This is something more for me to do as a passion job at the moment than anything else. I will be focusing on working with individuals versus companies, doing life, executive and change leadership coaching. I will also be melding in my concepts of horses and life lessons via public speaking, hopefully horse clinics and the ever evolving book project.

I am excited and nervous about this new adventure, but it is time to Saddle Up! Visit my new website at: .


Who Separates Between Sacred and Secular

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam hamav’dil bein kodesh l’chol

Of all the traditions in Judaism I have always most loved the Havdalah ceremony. At the end of the Sabbath we stop, we bless the wine, the spices, we light a special multi-wick Havdala candle burning brightlycandle and we thank the creator for giving us special times. The final prayer includes the phrase “Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe who separates between sacred and secular”.

As a Jew I am regularly asked why the more orthodox believe that turning on a light or driving a car is perfectly fine most of the week but not for those hours of the Sabbath. Many find it even more perplexing because even Jews, like myself, who do not attend synagogue or follow many traditions will cling to some Shabbat traditions. We do it for the same reason that we eat turkey on Thanksgiving or we give flowers on Valentine’s day. Traditions and practices define special spaces in our life. We wear a fancy dress to a prom or buy a ring to propose so that we can mark this time as different, to give it priority and to call it out from the rest of our lives. We separate the sacred from the secular!

Every day I listen to clients and friends tell me they “don’t have time” to complete tasks. I am writing this on Monday morning. I guarantee if I call 95% of my clients right now I will hear griping about timesheets not being done or approvals being late. If we asked those responsible why they aren’t done, the universal answer would be “I got busy, I didn’t have time”. My unequivocal response is, you didn’t make time!

We are all busy, life is crazy, I get that, but I also we believe we are the managers of our time. Simple truth, if you wait for time to find you for something it will never happen. You must make time for what matters or what needs to be done. The secret to time management is not multi-tasking or working 10 more hours in a day. The secret is finding sacred time and treating your time for that task as sacred.

One of the simplest changes I recommend to my clients is a set billing schedule. Have your draft invoices ready for review at the same time every month. This predictability allows the reviewers to schedule a routine block of time on their calendar to go over them. The same applies to the timing and dedication to other administrative tasks. I was recently doing some personal/life/executive coaching with a friend who owns a small business. One of his biggest frustrations was invoicing. He felt like it was a constant time drain. As we dissected the situation it turned out this task had no “home”. It was done on the fly, when time allowed and as a result, yes, it was always there. The answer was simple, dedicate time for it once a week. This allowed the accountant to know when they needed to be available, it allowed the vendors to know when items were due if they wanted to be paid and it reduced a constant nagging item down to a set task.

gymIt is just as important to set out time in your personal life too. Work, life and responsibilities can swallow us up. We do for others all day, we do what we have to and at the end of the day we fall into bed exhausted. How often do you hear “I don’t have time for me”. I used to have sympathy for people who said that. Heck I used to be the person who said that. Now I get it. If you don’t make time for you, you won’t have time for you! You need to put you on your calendar with the same commitment to it you would a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with your child’s teacher.

I have no doubt most of you reading this are thinking “that is great I schedule it and then something else gets the time”. That is also your choice and in your control. I have never met anyone who said “we’re busy on Saturday, I’ll put Shabbat off until Tuesday”. When and who encroaches on your sacred time is your choice and no one else’s. The surprising twist of developing a more scheduled life and sticking to it is, the more you do and stick to it. The key is not saying “no” when others ask of you, it is saying “I can’t do it then, but I can do it this other time”.

Not sure where to start when it feels like fires are burning all around you. Start with dinner and your phone. I hate cell phones; I won’t even pretend I don’t. I think they are one of the worst inventions ever. They rob us of our time and our relationships. Think about it. Pre-cell phones our lives had much more “sacred time”. When we were out with friends, our focus was on them, what was going on at home was left there until we got back. I hear all the time about the golden age of air travel, part of why it was golden was it was a sacred event. When we were traveling we dressed up, we focused on what was going on on the plane, we were in the moment. Now we get on a plane and we are on the phone, we are messaging, we are working, we are watching a movie. We are doing all the same things we do every other moment of our life. There is no separation, there is no recognition of the purpose of that moment. So start with dinner. For that one hour, no phone, no gadgets, leave them in another room silenced. Every night talk to the people you are cooking and eating with. Be in that time. Let nothing impinge on it. Can’t do it every night, pick one night a week. Then make it two and three.


Now find other sacred times. Schedule once a month to have a phone call with a friend you only ever talk to on Facebook. Schedule time every morning to have coffee with your spouse. Set office hours and outside of them do not work. Have date night with your child the first of every month. Find those times that matter and make your life whole, set tradition around them and protect them. I promise you when you come out of those times the world will still be waiting for you, but you will be more ready to be part of it!

The Dirty Little Secret of Adulting and Leadership

Growing up we are told many fairy tales. We are told the tooth fairy left us a dollar, that thunder is Rip Van Winkle bowling (at least if you lived in the Hudson Valley you were told this) and that brown cows make chocolate milk. Eventually we grow up and we learn about the science of thunder and lightening, that all cows make the same milk and our teeth start costing us money instead of making it. However, no matter how old we get some of the myths we were handed seem to hang on.

As children and teens we are told we are not adults yet. We are led to believe that a point in time is going to come when we are going to feel grown up, where we will feel like we have it all together, that we know what we are doing and we will feel like “enough”. Frankly, this is a bunch of crap.

I am 47 years old. I have had careers ranging from leading biomedical research funding by NIH to directing Fortune 500 companies in how to run their businesses. People tell me all the time how intelligent I am, how talented I am, how I have it all together. I have learned to smile, thank them and laugh to myself. I laugh because on the inside I feel no more adult now than I did as a 12 year old being bullied in jr high. I feel old, my body creaks and I want to be in bed by 9pm, but I don’t feel adult. I go into ever meeting I have waiting for the “real adults” to show up and call my bluff. I sit on planes thinking how insane it is someone is paying me to come tell them how to do things better. And here is the biggest secret of all, almost everyone feels the same way! Even those people you look at who seems so confident and even cocky are usually hiding that scared little one inside. We all just “fake it until we make it” and spend a lot of time balancing the hope that no one will call us out on it and hoping someone more adult will come along and take over.

I think the greatest thing I ever did in my life was to be involved in theater in school and then in college. It prepared me better for my professional life than anything I have ever read or studied. It taught me how to step into whatever role was handed to me and to play that role. It has allowed me as an introvert to be able to step in front of 1000’s and speak, it has allowed me as an insecure fat girl to ride my horse into the area at Appaloosa Nationals and it has allowed me look a CEO in the eyes and tell him he was the problem with his company not his employees. It taught me how to quiet the voice inside me that said I couldn’t or shouldn’t and to do.

If you wait until you feel it, until you feel you are good enough or worthy enough life passes you by. Do not measure your readiness to take on a new challenge by the myths of your past or your beliefs about others. Do it. Go for it. Live life. You will find out you are lot more ready than you ever thought and heck if it doesn’t work out, go hide in your blanket fort and figure out what your next adventure is. You’ll find a lot of us in there with you!

The True Multiculturalism of Organizations

Culture, and its impact on the success of organizations, is a hot topic these days. There seems to an awakening going on to the reality that buying more software and making more rules will not fix most problems. Discussions are now centering on people and corporate cultures. It is refreshing for those of us who have been championing this message to see it come to the forefront.

In my class this week we were discussing firms measuring themselves and culture came up multiple times. It was interesting to me to see that different definitions and mindsets around what culture is. It made me realize that to truly address the topic new terminology may be needed, that culture has become too big a term with multiple meanings.

Most firms have at least three cultures:

External – What is the impression that is presented to clients, customers and competitors. Is the firm seen as ethical, reliable, trustworthy? Are they known for being on time and producing quality work? Are their products innovative and do their provide good customer service?

Internal Societal – What is the atmosphere internally? Do people like and respect each other? Is the firm like a family and everyone tries to take care of each other? Is it a fun or serious place to work?

Internal Citizenship – What is allowed behaviorally? Are people held accountable? When people aren’t accountable is it addressed? What happens when a team member isn’t following policies or is ignoring their responsibilities? How long does it take for change when issues occur?

For a large or geographically diverse firm, they may have multiple occurrences of all three.

All three co-exist as one in most people’s minds and as a result cultural change can be difficult. Often when change is needed in one area there is great angst that the other areas will be compromised and as a result efforts are limited or halted. One of the primary concerns firms have as they grow and need to formalize their internal citizenship is that it will come at the cost of their societal culture. This doesn’t have to be the case.

Successfully making internal citizenship change while preserving societal culture requires:

1 – Recognizing that the three components are separate and can change independently but also keeping an eye on their independent impacts

2 – Depersonalizing accountability and repercussions. A clear line has to be created between how individuals feel about each other as people and how business issues are addressed.

3 – Always presenting the business case (the ‘why’) for any changes, policies or rules.

4 – Having clearly defined goals and priorities that are shared across the organization

5 – Communication!!!

Location, Location, Location

Bear with me, this post is a bit different than most I write. The topic is still change and leadership but instead of practical matters I want to ramble about space and human existence.

Again today Stephen Hawking is in the news. He is advocating for another moon landing and the development of a moon colony in the next 20 years. Specifically the comment he made that struck me was, “if we don’t colonize other plans in the next 100 years, we may not survive climate change, disease, and other versions of doom we’re bound to inflict on ourselves.” For a very intelligent man, this hit me as a very short sighted suggestion for that problem.

Much like my clients who I see buy different software packages, expecting their process and culture issues to be erased, moving a broken humanity, responsible for its own doom, to another planet seems like a fool hardy solution that will only result in delaying the same outcome. Changing tools, changing location, changing universes even is denial at best when you are facing a culture or behavioral problem. Moving humans to Mars will no more solve our impact on the environment or our bodies than JC Penny can save itself right now by moving all its stores one block north.

If Hawking is right and we are the makers of our own demise then facing the root causes of that extinction and proactively changing our behavior seems like the only logical answer to me.