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Author Topic: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish  (Read 991 times)

tomos

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Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« on: March 07, 2017, 11:17:48 AM »
The word culture, rarely defined when used, has many meanings.

Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish talks about the values of a work environment. So you may have grand values, or a wonderful image of your work culture, but it boils down to what is rewarded, and punished. The idea isn't taken beyond the work place, but the way I see it, the article applies to society, the family, the individual even.

It's a simple straight-forward idea, but I guess it's easy enough, at any level, to think things are different from the reality.

Also some interesting thought there about how you can have an influence.

IainB

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2017, 09:44:05 PM »
@tomos:
This could be a very interesting discussion. However, if one is going to be able to meaningfully discuss a thing such as "workplace culture" or "corporate culture" in any meaningful way, then I would suggest that some definition would be in order.
Quote
"…it all depends what you mean by..."
 - Dr C.E.M. Joad on BBC TV "The Brains Trust".
_______________________
So, some definition that may be useful: my emphasis)
Quote
culture
· n.
1 the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. Ø a refined understanding or appreciation of this.
2 the customs, institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or group.
3 Biology the cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells, etc. in an artificial medium containing nutrients. Ø a preparation of cells obtained in such a way. Ø the cultivation of plants.
4 [in combination] denoting cultivation or husbandry: aviculture.
· v. Biology maintain (tissue cells, bacteria, etc.) in conditions suitable for growth.
– ORIGIN C17 (denoting a cultivated piece of land): the noun from Fr. culture or directly from L. cultura ‘growing, cultivation’; the verb from obs. Fr. culturer or med. L. culturare, both based on L. colere (see cultivate).
– WORD FORMATION -culture ‘cultivation or husbandry, especially of a specified animal or plant’
(More in the spoiler below)

Spoiler
Ø -culture words in current use (full entries and definitions to be found in this dictionary):
agriculture
farming
L. ager, agri- ‘field’
apiculture
bee-keeping
L. apis ‘bee’
aviculture
rearing of birds
L. avis ‘bird’
floriculture
cultivation of flowers
L. flos, flor- ‘flower’
horticulture
gardening
L. hortus ‘garden’
mariculture
cultivation of sea fish or other marine life
L. mare, mari- ‘sea’
pisciculture
breeding of fish
L. piscis ‘fish’
pomiculture
fruit-growing
L. pomum ‘apple, fruit’
sericulture
cultivation of silk and silkworms
L. sericum ‘silk’
silviculture
cultivation of trees
L. silva ‘wood’
viniculture
less common term for viticulture
L. vinum ‘wine’
viticulture
cultivation of grapevines
L. vitis ‘vine’

 Ø Archaic or less common -culture words:
boviculture
cattle-rearing
L. bos, bov- ‘ox’
caniculture
breeding of dogs
L. canis ‘dog’
demoniculture
demon worship
based on demon1
domiculture
housekeeping
L. domus ‘house’
menticulture
cultivation of the mind
L. mens, ment- ‘mind’
olericulture
cultivation of vegetables
L. oleri-, olus ‘pot-herb’
ostreiculture
breeding of oysters
L. ostreum ‘oyster’
urbiculture
development of cities and towns
L. urbs, urb- ‘city’

Most -culture words were first used in English in the 19th century, though a few, notably agriculture and horticulture, are recorded earlier (17th century).

- Concise Oxford Dictionary (10th Ed.)
__________________________

For "work/workplace culture" or "corporate culture" though, I would suggest #2: the customs, institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or group.

Unfortunately, from experience, most of the talk about "the corporate culture" or somesuch - including the seemingly half-baked article you link to - is elementary at best and arguably mostly BS and corporate cliché. This would be because many (if not most) business processes - which implicitly and de facto form the bulk of any given workplace culture - are generally ephemeral, due to them mostly being at CMM (Capability Maturity Model) Level 1 (Ad hoc/Chaotic) or Level 2 (Repeatable). The processes in these organisations are thus in a state of constant dynamic change  - churning their processes - and thus their corresponding identifiable cultural standards are likely to be in a state of dynamic change also (by definition).

However, this situation is not necessarily immediately intuitively understood and it is difficult to demonstrate/prove until one shows the evidence of it by logical modelling of the corporate business processes using the IDEF0/IDEF3 methods showing ICOMs (Inputs, Controls, Outputs, Mechanisms) and Data Flows, and applying an Activity-Based Costing approach, at which point it becomes glaringly obvious. Using something else - (say) BPMN (Business process Modelling Notation) methods, for example - could not really show this with such clarity as it is mostly a drafting standard and does not force a sufficiently logical/rigorous relationship model structure on the processes, for more in-depth analysis.

What this suggests is that the only corporate cultures that are arguably worth spending one's cognitve surplus on are those that are specifically more persistent (non-ephemeral) - i.e., those at CMM Level 3 or above. These will fall into a relative minority though.

If one didn't use this as the key criterion to test for a useful candidate as a culture/process to discuss, then one could end up going round in circles futilely discussing a culture based on a group of processes at CMM Level 1 or 2 - e,g., (say) the Uber business processes/culture (which really rather seems to be at CMM Level 1, judging from its recent reported fiascos).

Some of the most constructive developmental thinking and research carried out on the re-engineering of corporate processes and culture was documented in two books that brought together a theory and an implementation approach for organisational development using a culture definition called "The Learning Organisation":
  • The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization (1994) By Dr. Peter M. Senge.
  • The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization (1994) By Dr. Peter M. Senge.

Again, unfortunately in my experience - though I am a great fan of the 5th Discipline - attempts to implement the 5th Discipline generally tended to be undermined or frustrated by management that was corrupt, or driven by specific religio-political ideologies - e.g., MBO (Management By Objectives) - either of which could generally tend to run counter to and destructive of the Learning Organization approach and its inherent principles -  including, for example, openness, honesty, integrity and what was defined as a "safe" (non-toxic in a physical and psychological sense) cultural working environment for all employees.

The most recent and classic example of this sort of toxicity existing - and in this case being endemic in the highest organisational levels in state sector organisations - would be the driving forces behind (giving rise to) Edward Snowden's whistleblowing and the treatment meted out to him subsequently by a repressive regime, despite the POTUS' apparent lip service to the protection of whistleblowers because of "the importance to our society of what they do", etc.
(Yeah, I know, right?)

Thus, the Learning Organization approach would seem to remain a very good (if not beautiful) idea only, with no real practical or demonstrable, or even potential for, implementation successes, So the 5th Discipline could be rather like the Algol programming language - a fading star.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2017, 10:23:26 PM by IainB, Reason: oppressive »

tomos

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2017, 05:44:19 AM »
@IainB, interesting post, although a share of it goes over my head, being fairly ignorant of the topic.
The original article jumped out at me because of the dichotomy between the idea and the reality. I see that a lot: I see it in individuals, myself included, and in groups.

This did jump out at me as being related to that:
Again, unfortunately in my experience - though I am a great fan of the 5th Discipline - attempts to implement the 5th Discipline generally tended to be undermined or frustrated by management that was corrupt, or driven by specific religio-political ideologies - e.g., MBO (Management By Objectives) - either of which could generally tend to run counter to and destructive of the Learning Organization approach and its inherent principles -  including, for example, openness, honesty, integrity and what was defined as a "safe" (non-toxic in a physical and psychological sense) cultural working environment for all employees.

The Fifth Disciplinew sounds interesting.

6DecadesOld

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2017, 08:09:44 AM »
One thing I am very bad about on the Net is not letting too much about myself get out and about.  That hinders me in some discussions and this would be one of those types of discussions.

But I can state a few things and still sort of hide.

Let me see, I have to think ... since the very early 70s I have lived outside the U.S. of A. for all but a couple of years -- maybe three, if memory serves correctly -- and in the case of two countries those years added up to about 8 years or so in one and about 30 in another.  At one time I was determined to never return to this part of the world, but a certain president fella pulled a stunt on a special group he put together and we all ended up being sent back into this area.  That president fella got mighty angry at us all, too.  After we were informed of the president fella changing our orders so many of us were calling friends to get transferred that he came down to us and chewed us out good and shipped us off anyway.

Anyway, what I find interesting so far in this discussion is how limited in scope it is.  You get yourself out and about on this planet and you will find that culture can have a really interesting meaning.  And I really mean "really interesting" but I am sort of in a bind because I don't even want to explain about the two countries I have lived in for a long time, nor that other one where I learned to hate a certain race of people.  Lucky for me I unlearned that hate business.

And I'll be trusting the admin and mods here not to let out about my User Agent.

But if you folks really want to get into a serious discussion about culture please start thinking about a big round thing with all these weird four-limbed creatures living on it that seem to think they should be called humans.  Them weird creatures have a whole lot of interesting ways to go about doing that thing they seem to like to call living.  Unfortunately, them life forms that call themselves humans also have some serious hate stored up in their brains that they sometimes use to justify the stamping on cultures they don't like.

And it is when those cultures clash when you really begin to understand what culture means.

Another thing, the "humans" that live in that place called the U.S. of A. really don't know how lucky they are.  The "culture" of freedom is something a whole mess of folks all over this planet would love to be allowed to live in.  And, more importantly, raise their kids in.  That is a culture I would like to see spread all over this big round thing called Earth.

Yep, "culture" is one heck of a subject to discuss, but spread the idea out and away from just the corporate world, or your own country.

By the way, I fully understand that many other countries have fine traditions of a culture of freedom, but I only feel proper in pointing to the country I was born and raised in, even though I know we in the U.S. of A. aren't the sole guardians of freedom.  And please don't ever forget that you have to guard freedom.  It don't come for free.  There's a price to pay.  Sometimes your life.

But it is definitely a culture.  The culture of freedom.  It can't be ignored if you are going to discuss culture.  Just like you can't ignore the many, many, so many cultures of all sorts of interesting "humans" that live on this giant ball that is racing around that huge star.

And that reference to the star should then point us to the idea of the culture we haven't met, yet -- the one of the creatures that live on that planet way, way, way over there.

tomos

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2017, 08:35:04 AM »
hi 6DecadesOld,
not having any background in corporate anything, I was a little surprised by the use of the word culture in the original article. I know outside the corporate world it has many different usages and meanings. But what caught my attention in that article was not so much the usage of the culture word, as the difference between our perception of how we are, and the reality of how we are.

IainB

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2017, 04:29:04 PM »
@tomos: Yes, there seems to be a large gap between the idea(tion) and the eventual reality, when it comes time to implement corporate "cultural change". That would seem to be because we don't understand what's involved - we do not automatically possess knowledge of the theory that might give us the capability to comprehend the reality of what the processes that form the basis of a culture are about, nor how they may affect the manifestation of the culture. Action which is not based on sound theory or recognised "best/good practice" would be irrational by definition (Deming) - it is just random experimentation.

The article you link to is, to me, depressing, as it is a trite once-over-lightly rationalised opinion-piece founded apparently on no perceptible sound theory, "best/good practice" or reasoning whatsoever. That is why I described it as "the seemingly half-baked article you link to - is elementary at best and arguably mostly BS and corporate cliché." Thus, though it may sound or look good, it is effectively useless.

The Fifth Discipline sounds interesting.
I found it very interesting and it taught me a lot, and is very useful as a paradigm for understanding the weaknesses and strengths of different corporate cultures that one comes across. I first met the 5thD in an acculturation training programme at an IT company called EDS, which had just taken over the company I was employed by in NZ.

At the time, EDS was in the process of re-engineering itself in what was described as a five-wave change programme, in preparation for it to be able to meet the changes that it anticipated in its future markets - the training was part of the re-engineering. I was very impressed.
Looking back though, the programme must have already gone awry. There seemed to be no evidence that they were implementing the change using any sound theory - e.g., the Kotter theoretical 8-step Change Management approach - and I think they may have mistakenly regarded Peter Senge and the 5thD as some kind of magic bullet combo which would magically bring about the necessary reform, but they in fact had no clearly-defined idea as to what the AS-IS state was nor what the desired objective TO-BE state was, and nor did they know/articulate what steps they needed to take to successfully make the transformation from AS-IS ---> TO-BE. So whatever was being done was being done blindly - completely in the dark. Seems idiotic when one puts it that way - and it is/was - but then this seems to be how humans manage their complex affairs when they don't fully understand what the heck is really going on.

To use the Uber case as an example, they wouldn't have got to their current toxic state by careful design - though they may have originally egotistically considered that that was the case. On the contrary, they would not have deliberately designed themselves into a culture that risked turning out to be a toxic straitjacket and a dead end. No sane management would do that. It would have to have been accidental mistake, though no doubt in all probability based on the best of good intentions and on what they thought was the best thing to do at the time.
Whenever one discovers or reveals screw-ups like that in organisations, the phrase "It seemed like a good idea at the time" is generally applicable. From experience, one frequently comes across that. It's actually a reflection of a vital and normal human instinct - we are hard-wired to learn by trial-and-error, and we do that extremely well. It's how we learn to walk or climb trees. It makes us adaptable and is thus one of our strongest survival characteristics. Born totally dependent and ignorant, that instinct has literally helped us reach for the stars. It is the basis of the scientific method. Every one of us is a scientist, straight out of the womb.

In the EDS case, I was blissfully unaware of all these factors at the time and was happy as a sand-boy, as I saw that EDS presented an opportunity for me to learn a lot and potentially expand my horizons in all sorts of interesting directions - and to some extent it did.

Unfortunately, by some apparent oversight, most of the management had not been obliged to undergo the 5thD training programme, because they had been brought to NZ after the takeover, transferred from the Plano (Texas) HQ, where re-engineering had not yet commenced, so that screw-up in the timing meant that they missed the new 5thD training altogether, and thus never did really understand it, so they carried on managing affairs in NZ in the old ways they were accustomed to that had presumably worked for them in Plano. I rapidly came to appreciate that they were depressingly ignorant.

On top of this, the NZ trainees didn't take it all on board terribly well - sort of "in one ear and out the other", as they were never obliged to internalise any new behaviours, and when they realised that the training had apparently been for nought, they promptly forgot about it and fell back on fairly typical adaptive survival practices/behaviours in order to survive and get ahead in the new company, which thus proceeded to evolve into the opposite of a "learning organisation" as espoused by Senge et al - i.e., reverting to a toxic dog-eat-dog, dysfunctional culture. It was interesting to observe, but frustrating to work in and became not a happy place to be. It was a lost opportunity to realise the desirable theoretical state of the 5thD.

I tried to get some of the American managers interested in rectifying the situation, but none of them seemed to have undergone any pukka management training and they did not seem to have the intellectual tools to comprehend what was involved, and anyway were in roles where they had probably achieved their level of incompetence and most were of an age where they had been put out to this foreign base purely temporarily as a home run prior to their retirement and pension. So they didn't want to rock the boat or mess about in something they couldn't properly understand, in case it might risk jeopardizing their retirement/pension.

So, puzzled and disappointed, I just concentrated on doing the best I could in my job, in what became an increasingly toxic culture, meanwhile sucking up all the training/education I could possibly get my hands on from EDS. Having exhausted the supply and learned a lot of incredibly useful stuff, I left for less toxic and greener pastures. EDS management had lost sight of its objectives, and I predicted that EDS was set to become just another corporate failure and it did. It went down the well-trodden path of the history of progressive decline and failure of other great computer companies - e.g., including CDC (Control Data Corporation), DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation).

It was some years later, when I was involved in leading process/cultural re-engineering projects, that I belatedly came across the IDEF methodology and, later, Humphreys book describing the theoretical CMM.

09_489x281_6ECCACB4.png

Those things slowly combined and gelled in my mind with the teachings of Deming, eventually causing the lights to suddenly switch on in my head in a minor epiphany, whereupon I belatedly began to perceive/understand the theoretical basis that explained why some of these projects did not - could never - succeed. Simply put, they were doomed to inevitable failure unless the CMM Level had been incrementally (you can't skip a level) ratcheted up to Level 3 at least, and that even getting to Level 3 and staying there was no mean feat in itself, so success was not a given.

This is such a mechanistic certainty that I now find it boringly obvious, but at the same time I am aware that it took me a relatively long time to get to the point where I actually began to understand what was going on, and I'm still not sure whether I am missing something. As Deming pointed out, some of the most profound truths are exceedingly simple, but can be obscure - difficult for us to understand. He recommended that the continual seeking of incrementally more profound knowledge should become a habit, hence The Deming System of Profound Knowledge:

09_308x258_1D94BD85.png

The Deming System of Profound Knowledge:
 - Variation (this is statistical variation)
 - Psychology
 - Systems Thinking
 - Theory of knowledge

Four interconnected domains, such that each has three connections - one to each of the other three domains.
________________________________________
« Last Edit: March 08, 2017, 05:36:12 PM by IainB »

tomos

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2017, 06:02:16 PM »
@IainB, re step two of the CMM, Wikipedia says:
Quote
Repeatable - the process is at least documented sufficiently such that repeating the same steps may be attempted.

Does that mean that at the first level they were so disorganised that they couldnt say what exactly they did even?
And that then enough of a sense of awareness was learned to notice what they were doing so as they could repeat/reproduce it?

tomos

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2017, 06:26:38 PM »
Quote from: tomos on 08-03-2017, 12:44:19
The Fifth Discipline sounds interesting.

I found it very interesting and it taught me a lot, and is very useful as a paradigm for understanding the weaknesses and strengths of different corporate cultures

yes, that 5th Discipline is very impressive -

Reading again the wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia...The_Fifth_Discipline
amongst things listed to avoid:
  •     "I am my position."
  •     "The enemy is out there."
  •     The Illusion of Taking Charge
  •     The Fixation on Events
  •     The Delusion of Learning from Experience

and the 'laws' listed:
  • Today's problems come from yesterday's "solutions."
  • The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back.
  • Behavior grows better before it grows worse.
  • The easy way out usually leads back in.
  • The cure can be worse than the disease.
  • Faster is slower.
  • Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space.
  • Small changes can produce big results...but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious.
  • You can have your cake and eat it too ---but not all at once.
  • Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants.
  • There is no blame.

what amazes me (but probably shouldn't) is how much all of this can apply to the individual just as much as to the group.

The first four of the 'things to avoid' list are just so incredibly common, and, as a friend of mine says: oh I haven't done that myself, but I've read about it ;-)

Re the fifth 'The Delusion of Learning from Experience', if one looks at the way we dont learn from history, I guess it's not a suprise that it's just as easy not to learn from our own personal or or business history.

And re the laws:

# 2 'The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back' is not the same as, but reminds me of a Tai Chi lesson: you learn that the harder the other pushes, the easier it is, with a little help from you, to let them push themsleves over. When the other is rigid, it's easy to steer them off-balance. Otherwise you have to find an opening, but if you use too much strength, you become the rigid one who's easy to topple.

There's a few of them there I dont understand, but they're all thought provoking.
I love number 11.

IainB

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2017, 08:55:15 PM »
@tomos:
@IainB, re step two of the CMM, Wikipedia says:
Quote
Repeatable - the process is at least documented sufficiently such that repeating the same steps may be attempted.

Does that mean that at the first level they were so disorganised that they couldnt say what exactly they did even?
And that then enough of a sense of awareness was learned to notice what they were doing so as they could repeat/reproduce it?
I would point out that, because I used to teach and coach people on this stuff, I thought it might help to have it expanded on in Wikipedia, and I thus was one of the original/early writers/editors for that Wikipedia entry some years ago, but abandoned it and lost interest when other editor's started randomly shoving their opinions and misconceptions in all the time and it started to become incoherent vandalised garbage, so I am unsure how accurate/correct the entry might be now - it would certainly not be authoritative. The authoritative source would still be the actual book in the library.

Another point that I would make is that, whilst the book (on CMM) was written in the context of evaluating software development processes for consistency of output quality, for use in letting DoD contracts for software development, the model was later seen to be a very useful general model for all/any business processes - i.e., not just those for software development.
In fact the original CMM model ceased being used/relevant for software development and was further developed into versions CMM I and CMM II (for example), which were more closely applicable to later more structured software development processes. Those CMM versions became a sort of separate methodology in their own right.

In answer to the 1st Q: No, not necessarily. Those who did the work might have known what process they used the 1st time they did the work (e.g., in software development), but they would not necessarily feel obliged to use the same process the 2nd/next time they did the same/similar kind of work, even if the 1st time's results were good. Also, different developers in the same organisation, tasked with the same/similar work, would tend to perform the work in their own preferred way. That's behind the reason why it's called ad hoc/chaotic - because it would be both of those things.

In answer to the 2nd Q: No, not necessarily. I mean, they might have been very well aware of how they did the work the 1st time, but just inconsistent in what approach they chose to take in performing the same/similar work in a 2nd or future instance. Maybe the resources (programmers) that were used the 1st time were unavailable, so the 2nd time they had to use someone who only knew a different programming language. Again, that's behind the reason why it's called ad hoc/chaotic.

The thing about the consistency of any business process is that, other things being equal, it would tend to produce more consistent results than if you varied the process - and that includes errors (which are a part of the process outputs).
This is where Deming enters the scene for process quality control/improvement, because he built on what he learned from standing on Shewhart's shoulders:
Quote
W.A.Shewhart - March 18, 1891 – March 11, 1967
Dr. Shewhart's boss, George D. Edwards, recalled:
"Dr. Shewhart prepared a little memorandum only about a page in length. About a third of that page was given over to a simple diagram which we would all recognize today as a schematic control chart. That diagram, and the short text which preceded and followed it, set forth all of the essential principles and considerations which are involved in what we know today as process quality control."[1]
 - https://en.wikipedia...i/Walter_A._Shewhart

If you take a "quality" (a characteristic) of a process and measure it and monitor it, you can learn a lot about the process by mapping it on a simple statistical/process control chart and looking for the degree of statistical variation in that quality. So, for example, in the case of gearbox production, you might measure the "quality" of endfloat (tolerance) on the output shafts of gearboxes in a production line, and plot the variability of that amongst the population of gearboxes produced. Too high or too low an endfloat above/below the prescribed engineering tolerance range would result in that gearbox being rejected as being of unsuitable quality for installation in a motor vehicle, so the gearbox would be returned to the workshops to have the output endfloat adjusted (this is called rework), after which it would be put into the QC (Quality Control queue) with an updated job ticket to have the endfloat checked again.

The important thing here is the statistical/process control chart, which is "the process telling you about itself" (Deming), and it is the key to systematically and progressively improving/changing the process to progressively reduce the variability about the mean for any given quality being measured.
So, whether it is gearbox output shaft endfloat in a production line, or the length or thickness of sausages in a sausage-making machine, the principle is the same - to aim for increased consistency (less variability) in the quality of the thing being produced.

Now you can't even begin to usefully do that until you do things in a consistent way using a single, clearly defined process - i.e., CMM Level 3 at least - that is also the only process you use to perform that particular task.
Thus, if the business processes that underpin whatever stands as the prevailing corporate culture are below CMM Level 3, then they are - by definition - likely to be out of statistical control and the culture will necessarily be unstable  - ad hoc/chaotic - as a result.
Toxicity is a typical characteristic of working environments where the processes are at CMM Level 1 or 2, because the environment is ad hoc/chaotic. It is stressful for employees, demotivating and frustrating, productivity is likely to be inhibited and staff turnover is likely to be relatively high.
Thus, trying to retrofit (say) the 5thD methodology on top of a working culture underpinned by business processes which are at CMM Level 1 or 2 will categorically fail.
That is the "boringly obvious" point that took so long to penetrate my thinking.    :-[

tomos

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2017, 04:30:15 PM »
In answer to the 1st Q:
[..]
In answer to the 2nd Q:

thanks for the clarifications, and more :up:

IainB

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2017, 04:44:50 AM »
@tomos: Take a look where @Paul Keith kicked off a rather interesting discussion -  Do Visions and Missions work for you?

True story:
I referred to EDS Corp. in that thread, and pointed out that, although EDS had some seriously very good points, it had some pretty bad points too. In particular, being an American corporation, it had an Americanised corporate culture that, unfortunately, seemed to largely consist of unrelenting and unmitigated BS that emanated outwards from the Plano (Texas) HQ and which was automatically picked up and mindlessly parroted by the local American management who had been assigned to run things in EDS' two NZ acquisitions - which latter had their own peculiar corporate cultures and which cultures were carelessly smashed together in an EDS mold when the two were eventually rolled up into a single subsidiary organisational entity as "EDS NZ".

The EDS Executive Team had courageously set EDS on a programme of development, consisting of 5 waves of planned change. Unfortunately, the programme - which was ambitious and farsighted, but poorly planned and executed - failed at the 2nd hurdle (the 2nd Wave) and was silently abandoned - leaving the rotting corpse of a dead elephant in the middle of the room.

The implementation of the 5thD was part of that change programme and, with all that change going on, the core business processes were in an unstable state of dynamic change, and, as I pointed out above:
...Thus, trying to retrofit (say) the 5thD methodology on top of a working culture underpinned by business processes which are at CMM Level 1 or 2 will categorically fail....
_________________________

A couple or so years after I had left EDS, I saw this history repeated. I had by that stage been contracted into a small but profitable independent NZ IT and management consultancy that was subsequently acquired 100% by an American company (I'll call them "Buyer Co.") driven by a foreign Indian management team. The company operated mostly in the US, selling ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems/expertise and "Offshoring" - i.e., offshore resourcing (driven mainly from out of Mumbai, India). "Offshoring" entails outsourcing IT operations holus bolus and a form of labour arbitrage which can save large US corporations huge sums of money by enabling them to lay off their local US human resources (employees), replacing them with a far cheaper and skilled commodity - i.e., labour based in India - at bulk negotiated discount rates. This makes for huge annual savings by wiping out large components of their payroll costs and HR management costs, leading to a greatly increased profitability per capita ratio.

Almost immediately after Buyer Co. bought the consultancy, the now familiar and easily recognisable BS started to radiate out of the US HQ of this corporation that had acquired our small but profitable NZ consultancy. However, the BS escalated by a factor of 10 when the Mumbai management started to chime in. They decided to merge our consultancy with a small but unprofitable part of the Buyer Co. group operating in "the ERP space" ("something-space" is generally always BS), and spin it off as an IPO (Independent Public Offering) on the NASDAQ. We were all going to be made rich, with new staff stock equity/scrip options which we would be given (Oh, feel the greed!) or would be able to acquire in the IPO, or something. We had a competition to dream up a name for the new corporate entity. It was all so exciting! As a skeptical accountant, I thought it smelled very fishy.

Because I had a tremendously useful background in strategic marketing and planning (courtesy of some excellent EDS training and experience in the Holden Corporation's Value-Based Marketing methodology), I was assigned to work with our consultancy's CEO to organise and lead a virtual collaborative exercise with our consultants, who were located across the Australasia/SE Asia territory, to pull together an SMP (Strategic marketing Plan) for the newly-merged corporate entity (which now had an excitingly flashy name, but I'll call it "XYZ Co.") to operate in Australasia and SE Asia. This was done, and the CEO was very pleased with it - his small flock of consultants (for whom I had been the sheepdog) had come up with a very creditable and solid SMP.

Whilst all this was going on, I was being sent on assignments in SE Asia, and from there I and my colleagues observed the start of the floating of the IPO and at the same time a steadily increasing stream of BS from out of the US management and the Mumbai management of Buyer Co.. To our horror, they seemed to be changing tack all the time, completely ignoring the direction planned in the cogent SMP (maybe they didn't understand it). Helplessly, we watched in growing concern as they progressively drove XYZ Co. into the ground shortly after the IPO, with XYZ Co. later being pushed into US Chapter 11 (administration for insolvency) and removed from the NASDAQ listing.
All had turned to liquid manure, which "trickled down" on all the staff, and the XYZ Co. staff stock options expired, worthless, with all the staff eventually being terminated (laid off) with minimal severance pay, and the CEO taking Buyer Co. to court for damages. This happened over a period of about 18-24 months after the IPO, demonstrating that the effects of greedy incompetence can be rapid, costly and far-reaching, and that there are always likely to be unsuspecting victims (collateral damage).

The residual shell of XYZ Co. was subsequently sold by Buyer Co. to another Indian-managed company (I shall call them "Goldline Co."), who, I was reliably informed, promptly sued Buyer Co. when they discovered that they had been sold a pup. As it was told to me, it seemed that Buyer Co. had apparently covertly loaded up the XYZ Co. shell with some other unwanted/unprofitable and/or debt-ridden bits and pieces of Buyer Co., concealing that fact when the due diligence was being done by Goldline Co. prior to purchase.
It seemed that Buyer Co. had tried to take advantage of the fact the the Indian market's legal scrutiny and criteria for open and honest discovery in the due diligence process was (apparently) nothing like as open, ethical, stringent and rigorous as it was/is in most properly-regulated Western economies. There be dragons.

In talking about EDS above, I did not mention that, whilst all the change was going on in EDS, they were being prepared for an IPO float on the NASDAQ, having previously been a wholly-owned and very big/costly subsidiary item on the balance sheet of GM (General Motors). The IPO would remove EDS (and their costs) from the GM balance sheet, and they would have to stand on their own two feet, with some kind of a diminishing guaranteed income from GM (their major client) for the first couple of years or so. The IPO eventuated - with all the usual stock options, greed, great excitement and BS - but EDS stock value subsequently declined at a steady rate from its initial high point, until, a few years later, it was bought for a song by HP, having become a mismanaged half-dead loss-making thing. It was then apparently asset stripped and killed off humanely with many layoffs. Meanwhile GM would have made a huge profit from the IPO itself and had got a potentially cripplingly costly dead-weight loss-making item off of its balance sheet. Phew! Pretty smart work. GM stock prices hit new highs, etc.    :Thmbsup:

Some people (not me, you understand) might say that, the XYZ Co. IPO, though much smaller than the huge EDS IPO, would seem to have had an almost mirror-image path to inevitable self-immolation. They might further suggest that the IPO would probably have made Buyer Co. a tidy profit and it would have stripped the small cash assets of the consultancy to fund the acquisition of that consultancy, and that inconspicuously bundling the loss-making "ERP space" component into the XYZ Co. would have been a sleight-of-hand to conceal the fact that Buyer Co. was getting a dead-weight loss-making item off-of its balance sheet and giving the IPO buyers the privilege of paying for its disposal, and that it was all just a financial risk-mitigation strategy, the losers being the holders of IPO stock when the pass-the-parcel music stopped, together with the laid-off personnel when XYZ Co. closed down soon after the IPO. Well, some people might say that, and they might suggest the things suggested, however I couldn't possibly comment, other than to say that prudential financial management of a company is a given and a self-evident responsibility of, and a valid objective for, management, and that it therefore doesn't need to be justified. ("Good luck if you can get away with it.")

There may be some useful lessons here though. For example, when one hears management spouting BS in terms such as (say) "Implementing a culture-change programme", or "Implementing a management restructure", for the purposes of "improving diversity/sustainability/performance/profitability", it's probably not a bad idea/time to dust off one's CV and commence job-seeking, just-in-case like, eh?    :tellme:
« Last Edit: March 11, 2017, 10:27:16 AM by IainB, Reason: Some corrections and additional comments re Goldline Co.. »

IainB

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Re: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish - Uber culture?
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2017, 09:22:38 AM »
Talking of Uber (as above) and its business processes (which would underpin whatever "corporate culture" it has), there's an interesting video clip: Uber CEO Kalanick Argues With Driver Over Falling Fares

There are some curious eye-openers in that video:
  • Responsibility and accountability at the top:
    What Kalanick says shows that, not only does he seem to implicitly utterly deny that he is ultimately responsible for any economic ill fate that befalls the Uber drivers - as a result of them being obliged to make changes to their business (and suffer the economic consequences) in order to align themselves with the mandatory edicts and changes to same from Uber - but also he explicitly dumps any and all blame for such economic ill fate squarely on the drivers themselves. Presumably, having thus absolved himself - on his own terms and in his own mind - from all responsibility, accountability, and blame, he is able to rest easy in his happy innocence, as he goes to sleep at night.
    In doing this, Kalanick would seem to have revealed himself as failing a primary test of a CEO - "The buck stops here." - and in my understanding of the role, it's a big FAIL for any CEO to make, and it could understandably give rise to a legitimate questioning of the qualifications/fitness of such a person to be in that role in the first place.
    For all we know, the Board of Directors may be mulling that one over at the moment.

  • The indefensible morality/ethics of the defence of the "externality":
    ("The externality done it.")
    Just as the film "The Coporation" shows that corporations can be defined as being legal persons legally licenced to operate as psychopaths, whose management regard their damaging environmental and societal "footprint" as an "externality" (an SEP - Somebody Else's Problem) for society to fix up at society's cost, the Uber CEO would seem to implicitly consider any economic ill fate they might "inadvertently" cause to befall the drivers to be an externality.

    However, we should not pick on the Uber CEO too much because of this, as it could arguably be little different to other notable CEOs who have let all manner of ills befall others with their corporation's toxic environmental, economic or social footprints. The rule is: "If it happens on your watch, then you're responsible."

    The defence, however, could arguably be similar to the unfortunate "I vas just following orders" defence at the Nuremberg trials, which attempted to distance the speaker from, and absolve them of any moral/ethical responsibility or accountability for their actions/behaviours, or their adverse consequences, predictable or otherwise and regardless as to whether those charged considered themselves to be purifying the Aryan race, or something.
    Since all non-slaves would presumably have a degree of self-determination over the actions that they choose to take and/or ultimately do take, the intellectual rationalisation and rejection of moral/ethical responsibility or accountability for such decisions would seem to be clearly irrational. Though this could, one supposes, be explained as "cognitive dissonance" or "cognitive blindness" and, as I have pointed out elsewhere, Ahamkara, it could not magically ameliorate the severity of the acts or their adverse effects, nor lessen/refute the individual's moral/ethical position of responsibility or accountability for such acts, however much one's ego may twist and turn when impaled on this particularly sharp spike.

  • Uber's business processes would seem to be the problem:
    It looks as though a big part of the problem might be Uber's business processes being categorically at CMM Level 1 (Ad hoc/Chaotic). The Uber driver specifically tells this to the Uber CEO when he says (at about 5:30m):
    Quote
    "You keep changing [the process] every day. You keep changing [the process] every day. ... You changed the whole business!"
    _______________
    That statement made me smile, because any half-decent management consultant would have been able to tell Kalanick this, after spending a few days mapping the organisation's core processes, and charging a few thousand bucks to do it, and here was one of the Uber drivers telling him what the problem was, in relatively calm terms, absolutely free of charge! That was one heck of a useful Uber ride!  :D
    The situation was made even more amusing by Kalanick's immediate rebuttal and outright rejection and denial of responsibility, rather offensively projecting it all back onto the hapless Uber driver as somehow magically being his responsibility. All caught on camera. To all intents and purposes, it seemed to be a sobering, instructive and potentially very self-revealing case study as to how not to do it.

    I found it embarrassing. He seemed to inadvertently make such a complete idiot of himself without even realising it - probably still doesn't and would prefer to maintain the illusion that he was always in the right and had simply been rude and needed to apologise for that. However, that wasn't the point. The awful actual truth about the relevant business processes might even remain hidden from him - cognitive blindness.   :D   (All rather sad also.)

There's a Bloomberg talking (empty) heads type video here full of BS where they are all over the "Uber culture" aspect (without definition), but just don't seem able to get down to the real business issue (aside from the plank that might rest in the Uber CEO's eye) - the point being what the driver stated about the business processes. A study of those processes might well conclude that he was spot-on, and, if it was, then Uber should thus arguably give the guy a consultancy fee for pointing out the problem. However, I suspect they won't, as it will be a climb-down and set a financial risk precedent, so mum's the word - though I also suspect they likely will quietly attempt to rectify/change those processes...and if they do, it will be interesting to see how.
Uber CEO Kalanick Caught on Video Arguing Over Fares

I am huge fan of Kalanick's and the Uber concept and will reserve judgement and wait and see if Uber fronts up and the relevant business processes are rectified in the Uber drivers' favour and with some recompense (as I consider they should be).
Meanwhile and for the time being, I am going to avoid using Uber drivers, as I do not wish to inadvertently help to support/perpetuate a grossly unfair system which can apparently victimise and impoverish defenceless and less fortunate people - even to the point of making them bankrupt - as was clearly claimed by the driver in the above video. If a legal entity (organisation or person) is prepared to make money by deliberately ripping off innocent people in an arbitrarily "legal" fashion, just because they can, then it's simply unethical.
I know only too well what it feels like to have that done to you.

Furthermore, there's this which should probably be of concern to any ethically-minded Uber passenger (only saw it today): Why Uber Is A Scam - Math Explains
« Last Edit: March 11, 2017, 10:34:31 AM by IainB »