Creating cultures of “We”

29 August 2012. On Sunday night I watched four straight white men in suits debate their party stance on the way forward with Dutch politics. We are heading for a general election, and the leaders found o so many others to blame for the crisis we are in. Greece is ruining the Euro! Migrants come here looking for free handouts! Development aid should be a voluntary decision per person.  Only one potential new Prime Minister talkedof solidarity, of the Netherlands being a place where ‘we’ live. I hope he gets a lot of votes in September at Dutch elections - the 5th general elections in 10 years.

None of these four will get my vote.  I will vote for a party who believes that ‘We’ can face the environmental crisis with renewable energy sources, and that ‘We’ are a diverse nation with many gifts to bring each other. Migrant, indigenous, men, women, gay, straight, young, old, black skins originating generations ago in warm climates and white skins of ancestors born to temperate climates.  I will vote for this party because it matches my values of promoting dignity and respect for all people. As a party they are not as evolved as they could be – there is a lot to improve in the culture of the party that will make it better able to achieve its vision. I would like to work with them on that!

I am inspired by cultures of We. Of working for and developing ideas together, listening to each other, taking on the good ideas, debating the sloppy ones, discarding the ones that don’t work because they don’t work for us.

In the coming days and weeks I am working with several different kinds of organization to develop the culture of We. The processes we use are based on the work of Dave Logan and CultureSync. Our intention is to build tribes of leaders that empowering organizations to do the impossible, over and over. The key is synchronizing the organizations’ culture with its strategy, structure and processes.

This approach is very much grounded in business knowledge.  What I observe in the companies and organizations I work with, is that simple business concepts help all employees be leaders. Take one of my favourites, the stakeholder analysis.  I recently did a stakeholder analysis as part of a staff communications training. In a stakeholder analysis I like to work with a grid, and to map onto the grid who are powerful players and which players are interested  - or not - in the outcome you as an organization want. I then like to map where the organization would like the players to be, several months from now.  Everybody in the group has a different piece of knowledge about the players and their influence on the outcome. Each piece of knowledge is a contribution to the group.

From a We culture perspective, the insight is more than just: “You have different knowledge to me”. The insight is that we together know what we need to know to be a great organization and to succeed in fulfilling our mission. When this way of thinking becomes integral to the organization , the organization has what Michael Porter calls Competitive Advantage.

Another favourite is the Hedgehog concept, from Jim Collins. This is a tool to give people to use over time to understand their strengths in the world. It is useful in  both for profit and not for profit organizations.  

The exercise is to look at three components of success - however you interpret that word. First is to discover what you are passionate about. In reflecting on this over recent weeks I have found that I love to work with people who promote dignity and respect for all people. What I am passionate about is creating a listening in the world for dignity and respect for all people. 

The second inquiry is into what drives your economic engine. In a context of shifting spending priorities for governments and individuals, not for profits have to constantly measure and gauge this. I am working with an organization that has found it can function and grow using direct donations for specific products. It can also attract grants, but these will never be the basis of growth. The individual interest in and willingness to donate directly to a product is the driver of the organization’s economic engine.

The third inquiry is into what you can be the best in the world at.  Take Twitter. It was started in 2006 as an SMS system for following the transport of goods. Could the founders have ever envisaged the millions of users it has today? Could they have envisaged that people would share tips and tricks and even make a business out of on how best to use the service? Twitter took off and since then the company has concentrated on developing what it is the best in the world at. Chances are, if it wanted to expand and buy up products it really doesn’t understand, Twitter will not do well.

So here are some great questions for a school, a university, an employee network, wanting to ignite leadership. What are we passionate about? What drives our economic motor and what are we the best in the world at.

Being in the inquiry, and being a culture of We, are the road to follow.

Lin McDevitt-Pugh
Management Consultant Lin McDevitt-Pugh advises and trains organizations in developing leadership in organizations,  promoting stable environments in which all people have the power to make their organization successful. Call +31 6 150 48468 to talk about working together to create more We in your organization,

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