The Speed of Culture

Posted on 01. Oct, 2009 by in Agile, Culture & Change, Reflections

Nothing is as fast (or impactful) as trust, whether high or low. That is the message of Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust. Do yourself a favor and check it out. Covey highlights that we are in a crisis of (mostly lack of) trust. It is killing us. Restoring trust–in¬†society, in our businesses, in our intimate relationships, even with ourselves–makes a world of difference. Not just psychologically, but also to the bottom line and to the speed of business.

Which leads me to my real point. Organizational culture. When a culture is clear, predictable, aligned, then it is trustworthy. We know how to react to it, how to act within it, what to expect from it. Even if we don’t share all its values, we can act with confidence and ease.

Take Toyota. As Jeffrey Liker was studying the company for his seminal book, The Toyota Way, he did what most Americans would do: paid attention to the tools and techniques. He later recalls “experienced leaders within Toyota kept telling me that these tools were not the key to TPS. Rather the power behind TPS is a company’s management commitment to continuously invest in its people and promote a culture of continuous improvement.” Liker candidly continues “I nodded like I knew what they were talking about and continued to study how to calculate kanban quantities…” (p. 10)

Some twenty years later, Liker truly sees that the Toyota Way is far more than a set of lean tools. For me, the key to Toyota is culture. A culture that creates trust because it is aligned and integrated. One that acts in ways that are predictable, that make sense.

So, what’s the lesson for me? First, I must create a culture within myself as a leader which is clear and aligned. One that creates trust with myself. When I manifest that clarity in my own organization and with my clients, I help them create a culture that can be trusted.

I want to follow Toyota’s example, but I do not want to become Toyota. I hope my clients do not want to become Toyota, either. It is enough to strive to become ourselves, whether person or organization.

No one else is smart enough.

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2 Responses to “The Speed of Culture”

  1. cliveNo Gravatar

    02. Oct, 2009

    Interesting idea, creating trust with oneself. How do you do that?

    Clive

  2. Michael SpaydNo Gravatar

    03. Oct, 2009

    An interesting question, my friend. I am really just beginning to play with conscious self-trust, but here’s my initial thoughts: trust with myself has to do with what I tell myself and whether I actually do what I say (to myself, and sometimes to others) I will. Losing self-trust is making empty promises to yourself, not following through, and not “renegotiating” the commitment, so to speak. It may mean needing to scale back on what I want to do, the projects I want to take on (limiting my own WIP, for those that know Lean).

    Covey defines five waves of trust, the first one being self trust. He talks about the confidence we have in ourselves, our ability to keep our commitments and to ‘walk our talk.’ The key principle underlying self trust, he says, is credibility.

    It seems to me, when we are trustworthy with ourselves (e.g., don’t tell people things we don’t really believe just to look good, or agree to do things we are really hesitant about or resistant to, etc.) than we shine that out to others quite naturally.

    What do you think?

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