Don’t Cook Your Culture Frog
You may be familiar with the analogy story of placing a frog in boiling water. But if not, here’s the anecdote, as referenced from Wikipedia:
The boiling frog is a parable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that arise gradually.
So in relation to organizational culture, my question to you is:
Is your culture cooked because no one perceived the danger around them?
Business history is replete with Enrons and Worldcoms deteriorating from a poor culture that grew rampant from within. Likewise, many nations have collapsed from having their culture diluted – think the Roman Empire on these lines.
We all have had our experiences with organizations that cooked their cultural frog. I myself worked for a company that was hijacked from the top by going counter to what the company’s founder and his employees worked hard to establish. By the time he realized what was going on, it was too late to reverse course and the company is now a shell of what it once was.
To prevent gradual heat from cooking your organization’s culture, here are some questions to ask yourself as a guide to keeping your culture pure and intact:
- Ensure your culture is promoted and marketed constantly throughout your company
- Don’t allow personalities or behaviors to come in and slowly erode your culture
- Measure every employee and leader through objective culture measures
- Mark the non-negotiable that cannot shift on your core values
- Ensure all business ventures, partnerships, and strategic alignments meet your cultural criteria
- The higher level of scope or responsibility, the larger the scale of checks-and-balances and accountability
- Make quick work (ie – cut loose) any individual who displays counter-culture behaviors
- Don’t compromise, or as Jim Collins says, preserve the core
- Hold open communication to allow the organization to mention any variations or concerns
- Objectively discern what behaviors may threaten to veer the vision off course
If this sounds like fairy tale business with no realty in today’s marketplace, I urge you to read this piece on the Market Basket takeover battle of 2014. In a battle that led one cousin to strip the other cousin of his role in order to takeover the grocery chain and bolster profits, the employees protested without working for weeks and brought the chain to it’s knees. this ultimately led to the favored cousin’s reinstatement and return to the company culture that made it a solid brand among it’s employees and customers.
Be steadfast and discerning about your culture. Stay vigilant to ensure what impact you’ve set out to make is seen through continually.
(boiling frog source: wikipedia)
(market basket article: bbc)