Slide

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 “Staring into the Future” Culture Killer

Some staring into the future is required of all of us. But if all you see is what you hope for, that is not just dumb; it’s a culture killer. Consider: How would you respond to this kind of query from your client or your boss?

“You started out thinking we had four months worth of work to get this completely finished. After the first month you needed an extra week to get where you needed to be at month’s end. Same thing happened in month two: you needed an extra week. So, now you are 2.5 months in. Please give me an estimate of when you will deliver.”

If you say, “Unless we change something, we’re looking at five months”, then you are showing perfectly reasonable, adult behavior.

If you say, “We can recover. We’ll be done in four months.” Your unspoken rule is:

Never admit trouble until there is no remaining way to pretend it won’t happen.

If you say, “We’re over the rough patch. We’ll be done in four and a half months.” Your unspoken rule is:

Be optimistic! Bad stuff that happened in the past will never happen again.

The “staring into the future” culture killer causes you grief in the long run and causes those around you grief right away. It makes it clear that the team’s work is becoming divorced from reality.

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

Two coauthors reflect on some of the unexpected implications that a reader may detect in what they’ve written. YouTube
See Tom DeMarco squirm as a rough critic trashes his most recent work.  YouTube
Tom DeMarco gives away one of the secrets of the new book, Happy to Work Here. YouTube
Understand how to dissect the culture of your workplace as a device for improving it. YouTube
What happens when you challenge cultural norms? YouTube
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.
“This war isn’t going to blow anything up, only turn everything off.
James Robertson’s webinar for Software Education explains how agile stories are best used to ensure the right solution. Download the webinar slides.
Menu