Monthly Culture Inspiration: June 2018

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: Four Quadrants to Understand an Organization


I've recommended and linked to Frederic Laloux's book Reinventing Organization's many times on my blog. But thanks to Itamar Goldminz, Director of People of ‎Grammarly and creator of the Org Hacking blog, I found a great new visual of one of Laloux's frameworks recently.

Laloux believes that in order to fully understand an organization, we must look at four things: people’s beliefs and mindsets (top left quadrant in the diagram); people’s behaviors (top right quadrant); the organizational culture and values (bottom left quadrant); and the organizational structures, processes and practices (bottom right quadrant). 

This organizational framework is based on Ken Wilber’s “four quadrants” model, which is a way to fully comprehend any phenomenon by looking at it from four different angles: objectively from the outside, subjectively as an individual; intersubjectively (subjectively from within the organization as a group), and interobjectively (within the broader context of a system or network).

Book: Dying For A Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer

In our forthcoming book, my co-author Liz and I devote a whole chapter to how our emotions at work effect our health. In his new book Dying For A Paycheck, Jeffrey Pfeffer writes, "61 percent of employees said that workplace stress had made them sick and 7 percent said they had actually been hospitalized. Job stress costs US employers more than $300 billion annually and may cause 120,000 excess deaths each year."

Pfeffer analyzed the research and found that many of the most common workplace stressors are as harmful to our health as secondhand smoke. One example stressor is forced competition between colleagues. He looks at companies that use stacked rankings (where managers across a company are required to rank all of their employees on a bell curve), like GE (where the practice was pioneered by Jack Welch), Microsoft, and Uber. These companies have less healthy and more destructive work environments, and less collaboration. On the other hand, companies like Google and Patagonia, who foster communication and collaboration create healthy cultures.

One of the most interesting arguments Pfeffer makes is that human sustainability should be as important as environmental stewardship. Borrowing language from environmental economics, he talks about capturing externalities: "Companies that do not provide health insurance benefits to their (often low-paid) employees leave these employees to fend for themselves... When they get sick, they turn to hospital emergency rooms for care... the cost of the health care are borne not by the employers... but by others." Walmart is a particularly big creator of these negative externalities, forcing state and federal programs to cover their employees health care costs (or raising premiums for those who are covered because of the costs of uncompensated care). 

Article to Bookmark: Getting Human Resources Right

Every morning I look forward to reading venture capitalist Fred Wilson's blog, AVC, which I get delivered to my inbox. Last year Fred wrote a great post in response to Uber's HR issues titled, "Getting Human Resources Right," about how to get human resources right in a fast growing tech company. Fred wrote, "Growing from 50 to 500 to 5,000 to tens of thousands of employees is hard. Operating systems and processes that work in a 500 person company don’t work in a 5,000 company. The same is true of every growth spurt. Systems break down and stuff gets messed up. A well designed and implemented human resources organization can help. A messed up human resources organization will hurt. As Uber has found out." He provides 7 helpful tips including, "Do make your HR organization about culture and leadership first and foremost," and "Build a great employee onboarding process."



Monthly Culture Inspiration: May 2018

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: The Culture Book

culture book.jpg

The Culturati Summit, which convenes C-Suite leaders to talk about culture once a year, self-published The Culture Book, an anthology described as "a guide to developing awesome and sustainable company cultures from the people who have built them." It features pieces about how to identify, embed and sustain your own authentic, high-performing culture from Kim Malone Scott (author of Radical Candor), Patty McCord (former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix), Lindsay McGregor (author of Primed to Perform), Sara Holoubek (CEO of Luminary Labs), and many more. And it is beautifully designed!


Book: New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms

Old power is held by few: it is closed, inaccessible, and guarded. New power is made by many: it is open, participatory, and peer-driven. New power is ascendent. Think Airbnb, Lyft, Etsy, Bitcoin, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo. New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World-and How to Make It Work for You is written by Jeremy Heimans, C.E.O. of Purpose, which supports global social movements, and Henry Timms, executive director at New York’s 92nd Street Y.

The book includes stories about power in many settings, but I was most interested in its stories of power in organizations. The authors peek inside of the culture of Lyft vs. Uber. They interview a driver who has worked at both companies, who explains that Uber tries to distance itself from its drivers, while Lyft tries to support and empower its drivers. "Uber vs. Lyft is a story of design choices: How much agency and value should go to participants?" Lyft is using new power methods to push the power down to the drivers, which increases their pay and satisfaction.

The book also discusses Buurtzorg, a Dutch home-care organization which has attracted international attention for its innovative use of independent nurse teams in delivering high-quality, relatively low-cost care. The self-management structure of Buurtzorg is similar to Holacracy, but the authors point out that the reason Buurtzorg's self-management structure works, while most attempts at Holacracy have failed, is that Holacracy is full of restrictions and protocols. Holacracy sounds like new power, but actually is "new power for robots." One person who had been a part of a Holacratic organization explained, "It felt like being part of a code... an algorithm that is optimized for machines, not humans. Instead of feeling more whole, self-organized and more powerful, I felt trapped. The circles I was being part of idd not feel empowering at all." But Buurtzorg puts humans first, which is why nurses love working there.


Article to Bookmark: Reinventing Organizations Wiki

One of the books that I recommend people read about culture and organizations is Frederic Laloux's Reinventing Organizations, a joyful guide to enlightened organizations who have found new and better ways of working. Laloux also created a handy wiki for "leaders looking to upgrade specific management practices in their organization." The Culture and Values page is particularly helpful.