Does information flow freely throughout your organization, and are you prepared to help when help is needed? Or, do you only give away information when the benefit to you outweighs the benefit to the organization? Maybe you withhold information, only sharing to “return a favor” if someone has shared information with you? In short, are you entrenched in a workplace culture of giving, taking, or matching?
As I am slightly obsessed with better understanding workplace or organizational and group culture (as it relates to productivity, efficiency, satisfaction, and growth), I was super excited to come across this article from McKinsey Quarterly entitled “Givers take all: The hidden dimension of corporate culture,” which elaborates on what elements are required for a group to function the most effectively.
The article talks about a team of Harvard psychologists that “invaded” the US intelligence system after 9/11 with the goal of better understanding—through surveys, interviews and observations—what it is that makes US intelligence units most effective. The author writes:
They identified what they thought was a comprehensive list of factors that drive a unit’s effectiveness—only to discover, after parsing the data, that the most important factor wasn’t on their list. The critical factor wasn’t having stable team membership and the right number of people. It wasn’t having a vision that is clear, challenging, and meaningful. Nor was it well-defined roles and responsibilities; appropriate rewards, recognition, and resources; or strong leadership.
Rather, the single strongest predictor of group effectiveness was the amount of help that analysts gave to each other.
I found this research to be quite powerful as I’ve thought back to my own group experiences and found this to be quite true.
Measuring Group Culture
I recently came across this personal values assessment from the Barrett Values Centre to better understand my own personal values, and it was fascinating. Upon taking the short survey, you will be emailed a multi-page report explaining your personal values and where they lie on the spectrum of positive vs. potentially limiting attributes. Better understanding who you are, what you hold dear, what upsets you, and what underlies your decisions (all connected to your personal values) is important as it relates to the organization, because, according to the Barrett Values Centre:
Just as every human individual has a personality, every human group structure has a culture. And, just as every personality is defined by the values, beliefs and behaviors of the individual, every culture is defined by the values, beliefs and behaviors of the collective. Measuring and mapping the values of the collective enables you to identify which levels of consciousness the human group structure is operating from and how it wants to evolve.
Below is a video offering more detail about how Barrett Values Centre uses understanding values as a basis for measuring group culture:
Upon receipt of your results, you may find that your own values are tightly clustered around a particular level of consciousness, or they may be spread out across the spectrum. Here’s what this means: if there are no values in particular level, it is an invitation to question whether things are being either ignored or covered and are healthy at that level. In general, while it’s best to have values dispersed across the levels (“full spectrum”), it’s important to know that if there is more concentration of values around levels 1, 2 and 3 then it’s an indicator of energy being focused more on self-interest. If there is more concentration of values in levels 5, 6 and 7 it indicates a focus on the common good.
To summarize, culture is the most significant differentiator between low and high performing organizations. Who you are and what you stand for are key factors in attracting and keeping talented people as part of your team. For more insights on understanding the rich topics of culture and organizational behavior, I recommend the following two resources:
- Barrett Values Centre – The Barrett Values Centre (BVC) provides powerful metrics that enable leaders to measure and manage the cultures of their organizations, and the leadership development needs of their managers and leaders. (@BarrettValues, @ValuesCentre, and @PhilClothier on Twitter)
- Positive Organizational Behavior Blog – “Behavior is both a function of the person and the environment.” I am passionate about leadership and management. My purpose is “to change your mind about the value of partnering with others to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive.” I try to keep everything I do — training, speaking, teaching, research — consistent with my purpose. (@drbret on Twitter)
Now it’s your turn: please share any insights below! I’d love to hear your thoughts upon taking the survey and what you have learned about yourself that you didn’t realize before. How has being a part of different organizational cultures or groups impacted your actions or behaviors in the past?