Last week I had the honour of being invited to speak at a BITAS Conference (Business IT Architecture Series) on organizational culture change, organized by IASA Global for Enterprise Architects. It felt like a home-coming because the first 15 years of my professional career were spent working in the IT industry for 2 multi-nationals Oracle Corporation and Digital Equipment. The topic of my talk was Connecting IT and Business Bridging the Cultural Divide. I was asked to present a case study of the cultural transformation work I did for the IT Group in Transport Canada.
What stood out for me is how much things change and yet stay the same. The #1 reason 70% of change leaders fail is still cultural human dynamics leading to miscommunication and poor collaboration. This is why I wrote chapter 2, The Cultural Divide, in my book – Conscious Culture – How to Build a High Performing Workplace through Values, Ethics, and Leadership. It is also one of the reasons why I became a certified professional facilitator, to provide facilitative leadership in organizational culture change for leadership teams, helping them bridge the communication gap, increase employee engagement, and productivity.
In the IT Industry I worked between two groups with very different cultures. They were the business functions (with application requirements and budget) who needed to invest in new technology to meet their business objectives, and the IT department with the technology and expertise for implementing the solutions.
It makes perfect sense to think these two groups would be motivated to support and collaborate effectively to meet the business requirements. “You have the money; I have the toys, let’s play. ” However, this could not have been further from the truth. To be quite honest, it felt like I was working in a war zone. Even after all these years of new information technology being introduced into organizations, these groups continue to have difficult relationships, often plagued with animosity, frustration, and misunderstanding.
This is a perfect example of a cultural divide and the impact when different organizational cultures collide. Why is this? There are many reasons that boil down to differences in the way people communicate and work. They have different business processes that have been developed based on best practices, guiding principles, education, operating values, beliefs, and cultural norms. The language and buzz words they use to communicate are different, ‘bits and bytes’, ‘speeds and feeds’, and acronyms galore! Along with their habits, traditions, strengths, attitudes, and emotions. These differences are the reason behaviors of each group are not understood and this lack of understanding causes a great deal of conflict. When your values are not understood, it feels like they are being ignored or stepped on, which creates conflict and deepens the challenge to communicate and work collaboratively.
The Cultural Values Assessment I did for the IT Group in Transport Canada enabled the leaders and management team to receive a lot of valuable feedback and information from their key stakeholders, the business leaders of the department, and their employees. This information enabled the leaders and management team to see things from other people’s perspective. It takes a wise leader to value diversity and accept that differences might be strengths, experience or knowledge the other person has which they do not.
All too often we keep our values buried beneath the surface. We do not make the time to examine them or see how they could be supporting us in our day-to-day exchanges. By making the IT Group’s values explicit and managing the team based on their desired organizational values, we empowered everyone in the organization.
Bottom line, groups and nationalities have distinct personalities that come out in how they think, communicate, and do things. This is how culture is defined and why cultural divides exist. Every organization suffers from some form of cultural divide unless steps are taken to invest in culture and consciously work together to develop greater awareness and appreciation for each other’s differences and diversity of strengths.
I wrote the book, to help leaders consciously transform their workplace culture. It’s why I continue to speak to leaders at conferences and provide learning development seminars. I’m passionate in sharing with you and other leaders, how you can improve the bottom line performance by investing in your workplace culture, enabling your greatest resource, your people, to reach their full potential.
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With 30 years in business transformation working with organizations, Joanna’s passion lies in working with leaders, facilitating active participation in organizational change, developing resourceful teams and aligning strategic objectives. Her goal is to help organizations become high performing and values-driven, where people take ownership, build commitment and bridge communication gaps. As CEO of the Culture Leadership Group, she ensures successful transformation from concept through to implementation.