Let’s talk about culture. My culture. Your culture. Our culture. Other’s culture. Understanding culture is fundamental to formulating and implementing change. Culture is a determining factor in the success of any change initiative. Imagine, for just a minute, that you are a drug dealer in South America. What type of culture exists that allows drug dealers to work together to stop the sale of crack, because it wrecks their neighborhoods? What does it say about the ability to implement change?
Tell us about your culture by using the Cultural Web and Hofstede’s criteria (you must use both of these models to characterize and describe your culture) to help us understand your culture. You can talk about your family, school, church, work, or any organization that is relatively stable. For example, I work in an institution whose rituals date back, literally, hundreds of years. Rituals are very different in universities in other countries; for example, at Oxford University, students there dress up for exams, and they dress identically. Furthermore, they congregate outside of the testing hall and walk into the hall two by two. The robes that you see our professors wear at graduation are also worn for exams at Oxford. In the United States, we do not require you to dress up, identically, to take exams. What does all this mean for us in terms of change? What we know is that universities in the U.S. will change and adapt, but it tends to be quite slow and only under great pressure. We have to use some extraordinary interventions to move change along.
Another example can be found in tourism, such as at a Disney hotel property. The water provided by the property came in a pretty pink bottle and was shipped in from Italy. Italy, people! We have the safest water supply in the world, and we are shipping water in pink bottles to the U.S. Our culture reveres such extravagance.