I’ve been a wee bit busy this week, engaged on two different initiatives involved in improving what the organizations are doing. The interesting bit was that there were two widely different cultures, and yet each was successful. How could that be?
Normally, we look at the elements of successful learning cultures as providing safety and reward for contributing, acceptance of diversity, and other dimensions. It’s easy to imagine that this results in a relatively homogeneous outcome, which, while certainly desirable, might seem bland. However, the two juxtaposed experiences demonstrated that this is definitely not the case.
In one, there’s definitely a feeling of responsible progress, but it’s a very supportive environment, and while there’s gentle teasing, it’s a very warm and fuzzy place, self-described by the leader. This leader has some clear ideas, but is very collaborative in getting input in what goals to choose and more so in how to get there. It’s necessary in the community in which they play, but it works. People are clear about where they’re going, and feel supported in getting there in reasonable steps.
The other culture is similarly committed to quality, but the leader has a much different personality. Instead of warm and fuzzy, there’s much more attitude and edge. The comments are more pointed, but it’s even more self-directed than other directed, and is taken as well as given. It’s more lively, probably not quite as ‘safe’, but also probably a bit more fun. It’s probably more suited to the entrepreneurial nature of the organization than the previous more institutional approach.
Yet both are in continual processes of improvement; in both cases my role was to add the outside knowledge of learning and technology in their self-evaluation. It’s a pleasure to work with organizations that are serious about improvement, and eager to include the necessary input to get there.
My take-home is that there are lots of different ways organizations can be functional, as well as dysfunctional. It doesn’t take much more than commitment to move from the latter to the former, and the leader’s style can be different, as long as it’s consistent, appropriate, and successful. Definitely a nice thing to learn.