The most valuable tool in culture change is a more subtle understanding of how social interactions happen, especially those of a non-organisational character. Any organisational culture comprises an infinitely rich context of habits, gestures, norms, rules, learned behaviours, aversions, attractions, fears, hopes, language, beliefs, memories, expectations, values, and many other dimensions of being human. Making sense of that level of complexity in a relational field calls for a fine balance between respect for specificity, situation, and relationship and the formulation of appropriate generalisations with which to make sense of the sea of specificity. Without adequate regard for the specificity of people’s lives, the generalisations we come to might achieve the status of harmful fictions; without appropriate generalisations, the level of detail and description could leave us with a mountain of information and no guidance as to what we might do with that information.
The most crucial aspect in the analysis of cultural climate, then, is the identification of appropriate variables on which to focus the analysis. How, why, and with what consequences do patterns of attitude, behaviour, and social interaction in an organisation vary from situation to situation? What are the general principles which govern variations in thinking, feeling, and doing from situation to situation within an organisation?
How do you gauge a particular cultural climate in a way that allows you to compare it with a future cultural climate so you can track culture change?
If effect, what I’m looking for is a dynamic map, not of what human nature is, but of what it can be.
The heart of this approach is the identification of three key, governing variables in the relational field of a cultural climate within an organisation:
- Intensity of affect (“the heart”), ranging from more to less intense;
- Character of influencing (“the body”), ranging from more to less directive;
- Discursive relationship to uncertainty (“the head”), from the ‘elimination’ of uncertainty to acceptance of ambiguity, fluidity, and emergence.
These variables allow us to make specifically grounded and appropriate generalizations about the governing dynamics of human interaction within organizational environments.
The most important point in this work is that I have found these three variables to be direct correlates. For example, the more intense the affectual environment, the more appropriate directive influencing becomes, and the more ‘elimination’ of uncertainty thinking is likely to dominate within the situation. Likewise, the more ‘elimination’ of uncertainty thinking is used within a particular situation, the more likely it is that responses will be directive and the environment will intensify. To continue the logic, the more directive the responses within an environment, the more likely it is that the environment will intensify, and that ‘elimination’ of uncertainty thinking will dominate.
A core insight of this work, then, is that within any particular cultural climate it becomes appropriate for only certain kinds of thinking, feeling, and doing to happen.
The Cultural Climate Framework: