Of Culture and Stories…

Surprisingly, no one on my noon conference call yesterday said “War Eagle” or “Roll Tide” or made any reference to THE EVENT OF THE CENTURY that occurred Saturday afternoon when #4-ranked Auburn University upset the #1 University of Alabama in the Iron Bowl by scoring on a 100-yard return of a missed field goal attempt with no time remaining in regulation…

…or not, given that everyone else was in Washington DC, Pittsburgh, London, etc., and could probably care less about SEC football – shocking though that may seem to some!

Rest assured that in Alabama yesterday, water cooler, cubicle, and hallway conversations reliving each and every moment of the game consumed many, many hours…oh, the stories to be told! The heroes and villains, good coaching decisions and bad, the great plays and the oh-so-close…all discussed, dissected, and made part of our heritage and culture here in the South.

Which begs the question: If people in your company or organization aren’t talking about SEC football, what are they talking about? What cubicle conversations are taking place right now that define or reinforce your corporate culture? What stories are being told that help people understand where it’s important for them to spend their time?

Want to change the culture? Change the story.

A friend told me about a company struggling to reduce customer-identified product defects through a process improvement initiative. A senior executive mandated that a chart be added to the quarterly program review slide deck to review process improvement activities on each project…1 slide, out of dozens discussing technical and programmatic status and issues. In the first review cycle, the program managers never even reached that slide (placed at the end of the deck) before running out of time. In the next review cycle the executive stopped the first program manager almost immediately and asked him to go the last slide in the deck…the process improvement slide! After they spent a few minutes discussing improvement efforts on that project, the executive thanked the presenter, turned the meeting over to her deputy, and left. What a way to send a message! She changed the story about what was important to the company and where people should spend their time.

Time is valuable; probably our most precious commodity. My Franklin Planner always has the Benjamin Franklin quote on the front: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

How are you spending your time? What stories are you telling to promote the culture you want to nurture in your organization?

Oh, and lest I forget: War Eagle!

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