Organisation Organizational culture

Organizational Culture and Tribal Mindsets

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Sicore

Change and transformation

I hazard a guess that many would argue, transforming companies, innovating, responding to altered circumstances is about looking at all aspects, measuring benefit or assessing KPI’s (key performance indicators). However, none of this makes the blindest bit of difference if we continue to create gods in the vision of ourselves who fail to implement effective result in operations — for the simple reason people are not aligned to your cause. I doubt you’ll find ‘Playing God’ on the measuring scale.

So transformation first and foremost, has to arise from the ability to see self as it becomes, not as we have perceived it to be. It is about understanding how we see ourselves. Individuals work in teams, teams are managed by directors, directors report to those at the top making all the decisions, and yet does this represent the people and fit-for-purpose of an organisations strategical viability and validity?

To really understand this, we need some examples we can all relate to, no matter what level of the ladder we presently reside in order to understand the difference between what I’ll call the ‘old mind’ and the ‘new mind.’ To understand this aspect of ‘minds’ in more detail, I’ve spent some time looking at the sort of jobs being offered on the corporate level.

The old mind

You will have the opportunity to be part of a strong and dedicated team that is responsible for Strategy, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Strategic Projects.

Here you are being provided with an opportunity, you will be a part of a great team and have a lot to live up to since we expect a lot of what you do. It is based on the ‘expectation of performance’. It also places the candidate in a position of having to perform and places the candidate under the auspices of ‘expectation of delivery’. This example is a typical job description, in this instance taken from a major media company in connection with ‘strategy and projects’. Let’s look at this in a little more detail. This is telling you what you have to do:

Working as a Consultant you will be exposed to a variety of challenges and tasks. To lead and participate in strategic projects across the company, you need to participate in processes, conducting analysis and other decision support, solving problems in a structured and analytical manner and communicating insights and results to senior decision makers.

Let’s try and conduct a little analysis ourselves. To lead… you need. First, this is telling you how to lead. ‘To lead… you need.’ You are not being given a choice. It is saying, ‘we have decided that,in our infinite wisdom, that to lead successfully, you really do need to do it this way.’

Second, let’s look at that wonderful mantra of the old world — ‘problem solving.’ Solving problems in a structured and analytical way?

… solving problems in a structured and analytical manner and communicating insights and results to senior decision makers

If there is one thing I have learned (as an architect and innovator amongst many other things), it is that the only sure way to limit the scope of problem management, it is to do it in an analytical and structured way. It is as if conducting an empirical study of a fixed entity that can be dissected and treated as small parcels of information that can be analysed and number-crunched leading to the Utopia of enlightenment.

Implicit in the message is that in reality, by sending number-crunched byte-analysed wonders-of-wisdom up the line to the senior decision makers, you then pass power of judgement on to ‘the greater minds’. However, if they are the type who see themselves as gods who have the true insights needed to really know what to do with the information, your part played is one of ‘the grand scheme of divide and conquer’. Let it be said — this is all an illusion.

Reality for companies is generally based on an invisible culture of illusion. As Alan Hamilton of IBM writes (Business Partner Technical Leader in Europe for Collaboration Solutions), the utopian dream of culture is that we are all going in the one direction: ‘Cost cutting, productivity programs, motivational speakers and all the other techniques you see these days about aligning corporate culture often fail. But the reality is as surprising for most as it is real. As Hamilton argues, in many cases its because of:

1. No understanding of what the current culture is.

2. Unclear corporate direction — what do we stand for?

3. What does the organisation value? Profits, people, products, share price?

4. Poor communication — in both directions

And Culture change almost always needs to come from the top of the organisation: ‘your senior management doesn’t recognise the need, or doesn’t want it to happen, two things will happen:

1. Your marketing culture will continue to be completely different to your internal culture

2. Your best employees will leave and probably go to your competitors.


If there is any truth to be made in transforming from old minds to new minds, it is we cannot be experts any longer in a world that constantly changes. Truth cannot be based on ‘we need to do this and this to achieve this, and this is what we must do, passing it up to use to reflect on and pass judgement.’ This is an illusion for the simple reason that truth is temporary in a changing world.

We cannot know for long enough to have any truly meaningful impact. Neither can wet buy expertise or if we possess it, bring it to bear. Because expertise does not exist when truth is temporal. The remaining logic we have left to work with is expertise and control is an illusion.

So what are we left with if not truth to act upon?

Organisations often do not have an explicit strategy for being an engaging environment to be a part of — but this is just one aspect — the internal one — for a reality that bridges internal and external functions.

What we have left is not truth, but learning: The journey towards truth that is never attainable. Our reality is therefore our journey and not the destination that is learning. The new mind is based on aligning perception to 21st skills and mindsets.

Interestingly, IBM has a result of their own cultural identity, adopted ‘New Way To Learn’ as corporate strategy.

The new mind

Naga women from the Patkoi hills, Assam. by Collection of old photos, Flickr

If people got rid of unnecessary hierarchies and formalities, they would have a lot more fun and get a lot more done — Richard Branson

In the new mind, we can see ourselves as something else, as people with a sense of value acting openly engaging directly with their colleagues acting as one. Francois Gossieaux favors the metaphor of ‘tribe’ — he states:

‘Unless your company acts as a single tribe, which most companies don’t, you don’t have a single corporate culture. Therein lies the problem with most corporate culture initiatives — they start from the wrong premise that companies are people and that they therefore can have one culture. In reality, most companies have multiple cultures which results in having competitive behavior in the wrong place — within their corporate walls instead of outside in the marketplace.’

So instead of telling people what they HAVE to have as a list of parts, we can include, tell what it is we want to do in order to attract the right sort of mindset-based person. Here’s an example from another job description with a completely different bias than the pervious one:

Are you interested in bringing our 2020 Strategy to life by working with project management and organizational implementation?

This is asking you a question, it is asking you ‘what you are interested in?’ It is working with motivation instead of expectation.

‘If you have a business orientated mindset, and the capabilities for working with conceptual thinking, project management and a collaborative style — then we would like you to join us.’

This is telling you ‘if you think this way with these capabilities, you get to choose yourself what you do and how you do it’ and that ‘if you think this way, we do to and you become a part of our tribe’.

As long as there are more candidates than jobs, as can only increase in the future, then there will always be plenty of people more than willing to package themselves in any way any position description expects, but this is still an illusion and what it does is limit potential — for the candidate, for the execution of responsibilities and not least, for the ability of any organisation to respond to opportunity. Now it may come as a surprise to know this example of job description comes from a personal banking company.

‘We want to ensure customer centricity, communicate clearly, drive projects and design new ways of working and reporting — all of this in order for the bank to meet changing demands in the market and realize our new strategy.’

Hold on a moment — a bank wanting to design? Now they are telling us, ‘if you are conceptually oriented and open to being creative, we’d love for you to consider us as your tribe pursuing your interests.’ I’m applauding, since this is an entirely different message being communicated than the previous example.

‘We are looking for a person who thrives working with change, and who can both be a conceptual thinker and a strong project manager.’

This is illustrative of the ‘new mind’ — defining a singular tribal identity, building bridges across disciplines, in this instance ‘conceptual thinker’ with ‘project manager’ — that opens the candidacy to both:

1. Conceptual thinkers who may possess skills in project management as well as

2. Conceptually-minded project managers

This is new and vibrant, engaging to both ‘our interests’ and ‘your interests’ — an illustrative example of how the new agenda based on the new mindset is coming into play.

The vast ocean of jobs out there is the end conception of a system that is self-perpetuating, based on delusion of self. So ask yourself, which mind are you? Or rather, if you were a candidate for a job — bearing in mind that latest research actually points to drastic shortage of qualified nextGEN workforce — which place would you rather work in?