Culture: Consistency

by Ron Potter

Our final quadrant is “Consistency”.  The subtitle here is “Does the system create leverage?”

Photo credit: Denison Consulting

Without Consistency

It might be easier to think about this quadrant in the negative.  What causes the system NOT to create leverage.  Archimedes is credited with saying “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I will move the earth.”

When you can create leverage, substantial movement can occur.  Without a lever or a fulcrum not much happens.

Where do leverage and fulcrums come from in corporate culture?

Corporate Fulcrum

A fulcrum is a solid base.  It’s substantial, heavy and solid.  You can think of a block of concrete.  Because of my civil engineering background, I know something about concrete.  One of the parallels I’ve drawn through the years between concrete and corporate cultures is what happens to them under pressure.  When you’re doing a large pour of concrete that will eventually hold up a large building, you must test it for strength under pressure.  It was always interesting to me that when concrete finally fails (it always will under enough pressure) it tends to shatter.  It doesn’t break into large chunks, it breaks into hundreds of pieces each going its own way.  Corporate teams and cultures often do the same under great pressure.  Each member heads their own way.  There is no more unity.  There is no more functioning as a single whole.  Everyone scatters.

Under pressure, concrete and cultures can lose their integrity.  There is no more possibility for leverage.

Corporate Leverage

Beyond losing the integrity of the fulcrum, leverage requires a long lever.  But, if you’ll notice, different sections of the lever move at different rates.  While the end of the lever may be moving great distances at a higher pace, sections close to the fulcrum may not be moving fast enough or far enough to even notice.  Different sections of the lever must be willing to play their role to reach the maximum leverage.

So, to answer the question, does the system create leverage we have to ask about the solid foundation (fulcrum) and the willingness and ability to support different parts of the organization moving at different rates over different distances.

Three Sections of Consistency

To get at these issues, the Denison Culture survey asks questions in three different areas:

  • Core Values:  This is the solid foundation portion.  It requires great values and a desire to protect and propagate them.
  • Agreement: This is the integrity part.  Without agreement (and I would add commitment) there is no integrity in the organization.  Without Integrity, there is no leverage.
  • Coordination and Integration:  This is the part that allows different parts of the organization to move different distances at different rates.  Without Coordination and Integration, one part of the organization may become jealous of other parts.  And what seems like a more common occurrence to me, each part of the organization attempts to maximize their portion.  They do this with little regard for how those resources may be used for greater leverage in a part of the organization that needs to move faster.

So over the next few blog posts, let’s take a look at each of these individually

  • Core Values
  • Agreement
  • Coordination and Integration

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