Simon Terry

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The Exception Ends in Transparency

The power of culture is it changes our behaviours without us always noticing. Take care your culture is not creating exceptions from social norms. If so, transparency will hurt you one day.

Yesterday, I posted on the exception we have in business for the use of arbitrary power that would be unacceptable anywhere else in society. We allow this exception because we see the use of arbitrary power as part of the expected behaviours at work, part of the culture of work. One reader commented that the use of arbitrary power in business seemed ridiculous when you think about it. That’s the problem with culture. Most of the time we don’t examine our expectations. We just align our behaviours.

Over and over again organisations don’t see the issue in their culture until the light of transparency is shined on their behaviours. Suddenly their actions are judged not by their own internal norms and expectations but by the public social norms of the community. Too many organisations are shocked to see their own behaviour in that light.

Before you get caught by surprise by your own culture, open it up to discussion and reflection. Work out loud to engage customers and community outside the organisation. Keep the boundaries of your organisation porous. Listen carefully to the rebels and change agents bringing you news of issues. Most of all do purposeful human work in the real world. That’s the best way to keep yourself honest.


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