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Weeknote: 07.04.23


  • The importance of organizational culture, the relationship between espoused beliefs and values, and an organisation's visible structures and processes.

  • Office setup is an example of organisational culture; think about how the setup of desks conflicted with the expressed values of equality and team togetherness.

  • The importance of listening to your professional opinion and gut in an organizational environment and how to build open culture and protect open and unscheduled time, you need to think about the power dynamics in the team.

Themes from the week

Two themes have been on my mind this week. The first is organisation culture, I’m in the middle of reading Peter Schein’s book on organisational culture and leadership. This has made me stop and reflect on all the elements of organisational culture I’ve often taken for granted and overlooked—for example, an organisation's artefacts of culture – the visible structures and processes. I’ve always been aware of them, but this week I’ve been conscious of their impact on demonstrating congruence with an organisation's espoused beliefs and values.

In fact, I was in an office this week where this very fact came up. I was struck by how the setup of desks – in a hierarchical and somewhat study hall environment – really conflicted with the expressed values of equality and team togetherness. I’ll be in and out of this office for the next few months, and I’m going to be really interested to see and observe the impact of the office structure on the espoused values and to test out if perhaps some underlying values emphasise/desire hierarchy or if it really is something that was slightly overlooked in the design of office space.

I also really enjoyed this statement “in performing cultural analysis, a person’s reactions are themselves artefacts of the culture that must be acknowledged and taken into account...”. What stands out for me is that you need to listen to your professional opinion and gut in an organisational environment. Even as a consultant walking in, ask yourself, how does this environment make me feel? And why? When you stop to think about it, it's quite fascinating. We can often sense our culture before we can articulate it.

Linked to this was the idea in an HBR post on boosting creativity that made a lot of sense. Recognising the importance of creativity for innovation and generating new ideas, what stood out was the importance of having lots of bad ideas – actually re-emphasised in this podcast with Adam Grant and Andry Weir about the importance of being confident enough to throw out your bad ideas. To do this, you need to build an open culture. That requires many different things, but psychological safety is one of them. Achieving this means creating an environment where everyone can speak out and speak up. Not always comfortable but accepted and supported.

The other point I enjoyed from this post was the importance of ending the culture of “schedule Tetris.” Protecting open and unscheduled time is important, and I would take it further. There is a power dynamic in organisations where schedules are constantly changing because the boss is super busy. The problem with this is that it's really about the “boss” expressing their power, and it undermines the space for creativity and doesn’t make people feel safe and comfortable. My lesson on this was that when you are so busy you are running back and forth between activities, it should be a red flag that you are not operating at your best. Stop, and figure out what you are doing to drop and stop doing – you’ll be a better boss, motivation will increase, and your entire team will be more creative.


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