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Workplace Culture: This Week’s Culture Killer

Culture KillerA culture killer is what ruins workplace culture in spite of your every effort.  When we were researching our new book, Happy to Work Here: understanding and improving the culture at work, we came to the conclusion that some toxic cultural behavior was the result of people adhering to certain unspoken rules. These rules are unspoken because they are, frankly, unspeakable. But despite the fact that you never hear anybody say them out loud, they can do considerable damage to your workplace culture.  it’s  these unspeakable unspoken rules that we refer to as “culture killers.”

Over the next few months we’ll be publishing here some of the culture killers from our book plus some additional one we’ve discovered since.  Come back here for a new culture killer every week.

The toxic rules and govern an organization can be fatal to healthy culture, but they are, paradoxially, some of the easiest things to fix. Each one is a clear indicator of actionable culture improvement. Once you identify a toxic, unspoken rule, repealing it can be as simple as bringing it into the light of day. When you say the rule out loud, the damage it can do will be readily apparent, as will the work needed to make it go away.

This week’s Unspoken Rule is the one that enables:

The “Knowledge is Power” Culture Killer

Knowledge is power says the well-worn cliché. Knowledge is often hard won; it may take a workgroup months to uncover some fact, some technique, some technicality, that can rightfully be considered a breakthrough.

So, what does this workgroup, the ones with the knowledge, do? Do they rush to share it with the rest of the organization as usually happens in the scientific community? Or do they hide it away and decline to share it with others?

You may have observed the phenomenon in your organization where two (or more) workgroups are working on similar projects, but there is little or no sharing of information. Why? Enter the unspoken rule. If we know something that they don’t, doesn’t that make us more powerful? Even if it is not to the common good, it is to our good to keep our knowledge to ourselves. The unspoken rule is:

Keep hard-won knowledge to yourself; it makes you more powerful.

You must have a story or two about the cultures, good and bad, that you’ve encountered, either in your present work or in your past.  Have you been fortunate enough to see wonderful workplace culture in action, and to what do you attribute it?  Or do have an unspoken rule damaging your culture?  If so, what do you suppose was its cause? Tell us about it: cultureproject@systemsguild.com

NEWS

Tom DeMarco’s speculative novel, The One-Way Time Traveler, now available in audiobook in addition to paperback and ebook.  Time traveler John Donegal is thrust forward into  a matriarchal future, and he can’t go back again.  Worse still the great love of his life, Jill is left behind.  Any chance of a happy ending here?  (Don’t bet against Jill.)

Neue und erweiterte Auflage 2 jetzt verfügbar. Adrenalin-Junkies und Formular-Zombies: Typisches Verhalten in Projekten. Hardback Amazon.de

How workplace culture affects workplace performance:  We know they’re linked, but now we know a bit more about how and why: Article by Suzanne and James Robertson in Modern Analyst.

Happy to Work Here. A practical guide to understanding and improving your workplace culture. Available in paperback and Kindle.  amazon.com   amazon.co.uk

The German edition of Happy to Work Here: Betriebsklima verstehen und verbessern has been published by Hanser. Hardback at amazon.de

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A video about our new book Business Analysis Agility – solve the real problem, deliver the right solution.  Amazon  YouTube

Suzanne and James Robertson’s Requirements: The Masterclass LiveLessons-Traditional, Agile, Outsourcing. 15+ Hours of Video Instruction

A Ruby Beam of Light, Book I of Tom DeMarco’s Dark World Chronicles saga is now reissued in a new edition.
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James Robertson’s webinar for Software Education explains how agile stories are best used to ensure the right solution. Download the webinar slides.
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