I have had some interesting and fun discussions with people about culture – stepping up toward engagement in different workshops I’ve facilitated.

One thing that has struck me is how many people will think about a small part of an organization, like one of the sections within a division, recall several people in that section and how excited they seem or how involved they are and conclude that their organization has a culture that matches.  Similarly, many people equate their own level of engagement and attribute that to the whole of the organization.

Culture takes years to develop and years to change

Most companies have been building cultures of compliance for decades.  The ability to use the “rules” to halt an improvement idea is one of the hallmarks of a culture of compliance.  It is so easy to stop something.  Much easier than pushing through all the layers and forms and structures and approvals, etc. that have to happen to make even relatively simple things like hiring or buying something very difficult and frustrating.  But for those of you who’ve worked at one place for a while, it’s just become the way things are.  For the most part, things work (eventually,) and so we roll with the punches and keep things going.

Sadly, this kind of culture will limit our ability to serve the needs of our customers in the future, as resources may become tighter, talent harder to acquire, and expansive growth marching on.  We have to find better ways to do our work.

We could rely on leaders to drive the changes required to reach the next step in our cultural evolution.  I’m sure we can make significant progress this way, but the real jackpot rests in our ability to engage the entire workforce in sharing ideas for better processes.  We can’t wish our way there.

Action Steps

Here are some things that will need to happen to begin changing course:

  1. Leaders have to understand how to engage their team members, and that to even get started, they have to let go of the notion that they know better than the workforce.
  2. Make physical changes to the work flow and layout in offices across the state to require new and different ways to work.
  3. Build structures that allow everyone to see how they are performing against daily expectations.
  4. Set daily expectations for the entire workforce.
  5. Teach people to recognize problems when they occur and deliberately solve them with a standard process.
  6. Listen more and direct less.

A Daily Management System will help with numbers 2, 3, 4, and 5.  Numbers 1 and 6 are on us.

Let’s agree to start by working our way from Compliance to Involvement.  Drive fear out by treating everyone with respect and asking for their help.  To get this started, it’s as simple as that.

Read more on leader behaviors here: https://www.dveech.com/changing-leader-behaviors/

For a couple of my favorite sources for this, get Toyota Culture, by Jeff Liker and Mike Hoseus, and The Toyota Engagement Equation, by Tracey and Ernie Richardson.

If you have any questions or comments about this topic, send an email to us.

From a culture of defiance to a culture of engagement

Steps to a culture of engagement