Are You Missing Signals of Cultural Distress?

If your culture could send signals, what would they reveal you about your core organizational values and collaboration in the workplace?

Sometimes the signs are subtle and can be missed. Sometimes they are out in the open and are inexplicably tolerated. Chances are, dysfunctions are ignored for too long in most organizations, resulting in a variety of problems.


Let’s review some of these signs and what some underlying reasons might be:

  • Bad news is rarely discussed. Is there a tendency to hide because of how problems and issues are dealt with?  Are teams uncomfortable about dealing with conflict?
  • Problems come out of nowhere. Are people too busy or too disengaged to notice issues they are dealing with until the damage is irreversible? Or is everything a surprise, because there is no plan in place against which progress can be tracked?
  • Details are not shared. Is arrogance a problem? Does a subculture (team or group) feel infallible?  Or is there a complete absence of trust about what might happen when details are shared?
  • A project has missed the mark. Do team members play the blame game in response?  Is the team moving forward to the next project without any improvement effort?
  • Excuses become the norm. Is burnout the cause for lateness, mistakes or lack of accountability?   Are there too many tasks to tackle, so that the priorities get missed?

Where can you start today?

  • Begin by talking to your team and ask what is in the way of success.  Have a mindset of listening and absorbing. Don’t go into solution mode until you have the complete picture.
  • Reflect on your organization and what signs of dysfunctions you may have been ignoring.  Some quiet introspective will provide you with great insights.
  • Ask your team to go through a project retrospective to identify essentials steps that can deliver near term improvements.

Either of these steps taken alone or in combination with the others will yield numerous pointers for improvement.  Work with your team to prioritize them.

Focus on process and people problems!

With any effort to up-level your team, it is critical to combine hard solutions such as process improvements along with soft solutions which focus on the human aspects that need tuning.  As an example for hard solutions, you may find that requirements planning and project tracking need to be improved. At the same time you realize that the teams really don’t collaborate well and have not yet jelled as a team. To address this gap, you might opt for soft solutions that include training in Team Standards and Trust.

Many organizations tend to shy away from addressing the soft or human aspects. Experience tells us, that you can conduct all the process improvement your resources can bring to bear. But if you don’t look at organizational issues holistically and address the issues that prevent teams from working well as a unit, you will continue to see gaps in your project execution. Keep in mind the critical importance of choosing solutions that will address process as well as people problems.


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