The Face of the Mind

The Face of the Mind

I write fairly regularly about how organisational effectiveness is a function of the prevailing collective mindset in an organisation – i.e. how everyone in a given organisation, collectively, sees the world of work. (Aside: This also assumes that organisations each have a collective psyche a.k.a. a shared memeplex – see the story of the Monkeys and the Banana for an illustration of this idea).

organisational effectiveness = f(organisational mindset)

I see many other writers and commentators sharing the view that it’s the culture of an organisation that determines – or at least influences – its effectiveness.

We could just put this down to a minor difference in emphasis, or a slight variation in the choice of a word, and move on. But I think it’s much deeper than that, and that our choice of terminology constrains our ability to think about and discuss the issue – the cause(s) of organisational effectiveness. (See also: Linguistic relativity)

Why it Matters

I suggest the apparent slight difference – mindset or culture – masks a huge gulf in our ability to make practical interventions to change things for the better (or understand why things are changing for the worse).

How does one get a grip on “culture”? What levers exist to change the collective culture of an organisation? Given the vast number of words written on this subject, it seems that few folks have much practical advice or experience to share in making this happen. And I find this unsurprising. Let me use a simplistic analogy:

If we want to change the speed of a motorcycle, we might look at the speedometer and see how fast we’re going, but unless we know that the speed is (primarily) a consequence of the amount of power being delivered to the back wheel and thereby to the tarmac , we have no understanding of how to effect a change of speed.

“Culture” is like our speedometer – an outward, visible sign of other phenomena at work within the organisation. And like the speedometer, we have no means of interacting with it – it’s a read-only display.

A Vista of Viable Interventions

I suggest that if we realise that culture is just the “Face of the organisational Mind”, then we can choose to interact with the mindset of the organisation, via numerous paths and means – not least, systems thinking and organisational (psycho)therapy. Thus a vista of viable interventions opens up to us.

What do you think?

– Bob

Further Reading

Culture Change is Free ~ John Seddon (video)

  1. Mark Davidson said:

    Hi Bob

    Insightful, as always.

    One of the books I am currently reading is The Toyota Kata by Mike Rother. Although I am only one fifth of the way through, the key message appears to be that organisations should rather focus on the nature of people’s actions at the process, as opposed to the process outcomes or results themselves.

    This seems congruent with your message here, even in the context of organisational culture.

    Thanks for writing,

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