Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Culture Change?

Over the past few weeks there have been several “culture changing” emails and memos sent out to the employees of my company from our executives.

The first memo for instance includes the completely overused acronym TEAM (together everyone achieves more) with a keen insightful passage “as you’ll notice there is no I in TEAM”. This memo hit home as my 9th grade basketball coach shared the same insight over 20 years ago and we went 0-17 that season.

The next memo details out the expectations our president has for the leaders of our company. “Lead by Example”, “Be a Team Player” and “Challenge the Status Quo” are all key statements made by the head honcho is his groundbreaking document. He ends the memo with the snappy phrase “fail to plan and plan to fail” referencing the fact that the leaders need to better layout their goals, objectives and expectations.

Several of my naive co-workers will optimistically believe these encouraging words from our big shots are part of a real change. I can hear the comments such as “wow, this is a good sign” and “it looks like someone at the top realizes we are important.” As a Work Turtle I am keen to these types of executive mind tricks and unlike my gullible colleagues I easily realize that emails and memos don’t result in a culture change, actions do.

A few days after the “culture changing” emails are sent out I am presented with a situation that proves my point. Unfortunately one of my gullible colleagues is the brunt of the cultural backfire. A fellow manager, Rob, sees a problem that is impacting our customers. This problem has existed for some time and has been accepted as how we do business. Seeing the “culture changing” memos and emails Rob decided to “Challenge the Status Quo” by questioning the problems and what we can do to better service our customer. Rob emails the departments involved and tries to get a team of people together to look at the problem. Rob asks “can meet to discuss these issues and setup a plan to include how we stop/reduce the issues and monitor the results”.

Rob has tried to address this problem in the past with no result, but this time he feels empowered by the culture changing emails so he hits send, feeling like he is going to make a difference. Then the response from the Executive Vice President of the department involved in creating the problem comes crashing down on Rob (response below)


Why do you have to keep harping on this with stupid question? As long as we have people working here we will always have problems. If you would like I could investigate employing robots maybe that would solve the problem. I don’t ask you stupid questions when your people screw something up. There will never be “a plan” that will solve all these issues. If you come up with it, tell me so I can patent it and retire a rich man.

Executive Vice President of Manufacturing

Now you would think that an Executive Vice President would be in the loop on the “culture changing” emails. You would also think that there would be the customary “love fest” period of a couple months in which everyone is drunk on the culture change stuff and tries to cooperate. In this case it only took a few days to show Rob and other employees that actions speak louder than emails or memos. Executives will have these great ideas to change the company culture, but if there is no action or accountability to live the culture set forth, than nothing happens. Instead employees, who long for such change, are victims of the harsh reality that nothing will ever change. If you are a Work Turtle you will realize these false promises of culture change. If you are not a Work Turtle, what are you waiting for?


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