The Secret Recipe to Organizational Culture is no Recipe  

8 April 2021:

Imagine a chocolate chip cookie. Better yet, get one. Take a bite. Savor the flavor and texture. What makes a chocolate chip cookie so delicious? Save for the chocolate chips, most of the ingredients aren’t that appealing on their own. Few people reach for a big spoonful of flour to satisfy a craving. Other ingredients are not obvious except to bakers: salt, vanilla, baking soda. Yet each is essential to the final product.

This cookie exercise, first shown to me by leadership consultant Margaret Wheatley at a workshop, is an excellent (and delectable) demonstration of the emergent properties of a system: The whole has characteristics not found in any of the individual elements that comprise it. This point is helpful in beginning to explore organizational culture. To understand why a culture is either working or in need of repair, you have to understand the whole and the parts. Your organization’s culture emerges from the unique combination of your people, principles, policies, and practices — all of them — in your distinct operational context.

The events of the past year have many leaders concerned that the cookie is crumbling. Pandemic-induced disruption within workforces has seemed to weaken culture as a unifying organizational force. And because culture emerges, it is difficult to remedy this weakening or other ills by importing “best” practices from one organization to another — simply appropriating admirable principles or practices on innovation, for example, will not yield the same result, because the people and operating environment will be different. Thus, the cookie metaphor only takes us so far.

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Source: Strategy Business

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