Whether you are a go-getter, a planner, or a set-it-and-forget-it type of person, I think we can all agree that our chances of living a life of our design are improved when we have a fairly detailed idea of what it is that we want. As Zig Ziglar put it, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time!” Unfortunately, too many of us do just that. We don’t establish a clear vision what we want, and yet we expect whatever it is to just fall into our laps, somehow and someday. Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that that isn’t how things work, but the good news is that once I explain how things do work, you can start putting them to work for yourself.
As explained in one particular interpretation of Open System Theory applied to organizational operation, there are three interrelated processes that are simultaneously running within every organization that directly determine the outcomes that they produce. Firstly, the Production Core Process, which has to do with all the activities that are directly related to producing the results. Secondly, the Individual Core Process, which involves that’s most important to the individuals relative to their own personal and professional objectives. And finally, the Social Core Process that involves the integration of the other two core processes in a way that creates the appropriate synergy as individuals work together to meet their individual and organizational objectives. None of these processes operates in isolation from one another, meaning that a failure in one will necessarily translate eventually to failure in the other two, and vice versa. High performance organizations devote the appropriate amount of time and attention to all three of these processes to ensure they work in concert to create common objectives between individuals, teams and the organization as a whole, while underperforming organizations overemphasize one process to the detriment of the others.
Culture transformation is warfare, make no mistake. It’s true that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood,” but our enemies—apathy, complacency, cynicism, resignation, hypocrisy, self-righteousness—are far more insidious and tenacious and dangerous than any physical combatant could ever be, for they can hide within and overtake anyone at any time. Considering the stakes of this epic battle, we would be wise to take stock of the tools we have at our disposal, on the front lines and at the top, and put them to good use. And I’m here to tell you that, bar none, the greatest “weapon” we have in this war are our words and our conversations with each other.
Nothing kills the momentum of a new initiative like the folkloric stories of past failed attempts that circulate whenever a leadership team attempts to unveil a transformative vision. This collective memory—usually circulated in hushed, cynical tones behind the scenes—that the organization has of similar initiatives that were introduced with enthusiasm, only to fail to produce any real results in the past, is exactly what ensures that history will repeat itself again. Whether we have labeled an initiative the “program of the month” as an excuse for not getting on board or we have heard the phrase from those who are not as enthusiastic as we are about what we are about to embark on, we know that it could turn into a self-fulling prophecy and slow down progress unless we clarify our messaging.
It is apparent to me that leaders are often looking for that new process or procedure or tool guaranteed to create engagement and improve their results. My experience has been that, while access to the latest technology often acts as an effective catalyst, the fundamental attitudes and behaviors that make or break a team are timeless and universal. While their particular manifestations can and should change depending on each unique situation, the fundamental beliefs that undergird them invariably cultivate the sense of personal accountability that directly impacts the results that the team produces, no matter when and where they are implemented.