Make your precedents count
Culture is what organizations are made of. It’s the substance that turns into productivity, it’s reflected in the products we create, and it’s where the stories come from that we tell the world outside our organization.
What is culture, specifically though? I believe culture is collective taste. It is the myriad connections between us all as individuals and the agreements (spoken, conscious, or otherwise) we all have with each other about what’s acceptable and what’s not, and how to handle differences in subjective measures within those outer bounds. Taste is awareness of subjectivities and boundaries at the invididual level, and when you multiply that quality of mind out into an organization, you wind up with culture.
So the next questions becomes: how do you create culture? Simple. Culture in organizations is all about precedents. When something happens the organization hasn’t seen before, there is no precedent, and this is an opportunity for the leaders within an organization (note that’s not always the ones at the top of the org chart) to flex their taste muscles on behalf of the organization and decide what kind of precedent they want to set.
After that, the precedent is set, and the organization begins to point at that example as the way their culture responds to scenarios like that. When there is a precedent for something, any individual in the organization can feel confident responding, since they know it’ll be in alignment with what has come before.
This is culture forming, and it doesn’t stop evolving either. It’s shifting under your feet as you read these very words, and if you aren’t consciously building it up and shaping it in the direction you want it to go, it won’t stand still and wait until you feel like it.
Precents are being set all around us, all the time, so make them count. Your culture depends on it.