Covert Culture

This week's trek is inspired by Dr. Kim Cameron's research on how to build strong organizational cultures.

Is there a secret culture at your company that people don't openly talk about?

Every company has a formal culture that is celebrated through things like a shared mission, vision, and values. At the same time most organizations also have an informal culture - a set of more covert norms that represent other ways that things get done. As a leader, it's important to take note of the informal aspects of your company's culture and consider how those norms might have an impact on the working dynamics of your team.

Introducing Your Covert Culture Corrector Exercise

What It Is
A 20-minute exercise to help you identify the unspoken rules of your company's culture and determine their contribution to the overall health of your team.

Why We Love It 
Knowing the ins and outs of your covert culture is important to maintaining a healthy team dynamic. This exercise gives you a quick way to identify the unspoken rules that govern how your team operates and determine what you can do to change those that might be undermining your team's success. 

How It Works
1. Make a list of the unspoken cultural norms that govern how things are done at your company. Consider things like having to get airtime in meetings, needing to align with cliques in order to gain influence, and having to act a certain way to get promoted.

2. Review each norm and write out all the reasons why it is critical to the overall success of your team. For example does focusing on airtime in meetings ensure that more junior people get visibility with senior leadership?

3. Now, look at each rule again and write out all the reasons it might detrimental to the success of your team. For example, does focusing on airtime in meetings mean that preferential treatment is given to those with the loudest voices or that meetings tend to drag on?

4. Take a few minutes to review #3 above. Consider which of these items you have the power to change within your specific team. For those items, determine what you, as a leader, can do to counteract the negative effects of those norms on your team. For example if favoring airtime in meetings is starting to make every meeting drag on, set a new rule that gives speakers no more than two minutes to make their point or ask your team to email feedback before the meeting instead of providing it during.

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Shankar Desai, Group Manager @ Google
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Shankar Desai