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Grant McCracken: The Two Faces Of The Chief Culture Officer

The importance of creating a role that is responsible for maintaining a company's culture and communicating it both inside and out.

Grant McCracken, Cultureby
Grant McCracken, Cultureby on August 30, 2012.

Photo credit Consumidor Moderno

This week I took part in a #Tchat on employee engagement and specifically onboarding. (Thanks to Maria Gottschalk for including me.) I found myself arguing that onboarding should introduce new hires to the deep culture of the organization, the one that is buried in assumptions and largely hidden from view. Meghan Biro, a founder of Tchat, invited me to “break it down.” Here goes.

The corporate culture is a complicated culture. It gets reshaped every time a new leader storms the C-suite. (Marissa Mayer is transforming Yahoo now.) It is changed by a succession the managerial models (‘reengineering!’) and buzzwords (‘tipping point!’). McKinsey and various other consultants introduce new ideas. Mergers and acquisitions bring in new ways of seeing and doing. The average corporate culture is a crowded house, an accumulation of ideas and practices.

And it would be one thing if these ideas and practices were explicit and obvious and sat like a simple “subroutine” in the corporate code, there to be plucked cleanly out when we wanted to change things. But of course, these ideas live cheek by jowl in an unexamined mass. I can’t remember ever hearing someone say, “Oh, ok, now that we’re moving to this idea, let’s root out the old one.”

No, we muddle through, assuming, apparently, that old ideas will expire on their own, or leave in disgrace. But of course they persevere. Every so often someone will break one out during a committee meeting and we all silently think, “Welcome, old friend.” More often, they serve as an assumption we resort to “when things get complicated.” The trouble is, they have a way of making things still more complicated. After all, the ideas that works for one person or group often contradicts and wrong-foots the rest of us. You’re thinking one thing. I’m thinking another. Key projects end up as “ships passing.”

(Original post by Grant McCracken. Continue reading here.)

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