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Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish

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@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.
-tomos (March 08, 2017, 05:44 AM)
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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.

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:

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.

@IainB, re step two of the CMM, Wikipedia says:
Repeatable - the process is at least documented sufficiently such that repeating the same steps may be attempted.
--- End quote ---

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?

The Fifth Discipline sounds interesting.-tomos on 08-03-2017, 12:44:19
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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
-IainB (March 08, 2017, 04:29 PM)
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yes, that 5th Discipline is very impressive -

Reading again the wikipedia article
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, re step two of the CMM, Wikipedia says:
Repeatable - the process is at least documented sufficiently such that repeating the same steps may be attempted.
--- End quote ---

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 (March 08, 2017, 06:02 PM)
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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:
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]

--- End quote ---

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.    :-[

In answer to the 1st Q:
In answer to the 2nd Q:
-IainB (March 08, 2017, 08:55 PM)
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thanks for the clarifications, and more :up:


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