Culture vs Attitude

28/9/2015 2-minute read

Culture [kuhl-cher]

the behaviours and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group

[at-i-tood, -tyood]

manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind

There has long been much gnashing of teeth on the Internets about Strategy vs Culture and the relative merits of one dining on the other for an early morning meal.

Whilst I am a firm believer that the “way” you do something being as critical as “what” you do - there tends to be a slavish belief that culture cures all ills and is the “key” to all things.

I feel fortunate to have worked at companies with a wide variety of cultures. Some strong and well developed, others loose and hard to identify, some positive, some negative, some self-destructive.

But over and above this, my various roles let me see the nuances of other companies' cultures up close and personal - from the inside, in action - in full glorious “execution mode”.

And what I see time and time again is that culture is only a very small part of the overall picture. It is the attitude of people that is FAR MORE important than culture.

Attitude is what informs the individual’s drive day-to-day.

Attitude is what determines execution of a culture vs lip-service to a culture.

On oh-so-many occasions I have seen organisations with allegedly “strong cultures” executing counter to what they proclaim, as individual attitudes are not in concert or harmony with the alleged culture.

Now you may say ““Well, then they do not have culture!”. But let me take it further, it is fascinating to watch individuals co-opt the stated culture to get what they want done, done. In fact, using the exact language of that culture, invoking tenets of that culture explicitly as they ride roughshod over the “true meaning” of what is trying to be achieved by way of the established cultural norms.

Much like good art - you know it when you see it.

So here is a fun exercise, when you see a company with a “strong culture” take a close look at the individual attitudes existent within that company - you will find it revealing!