Organizational Cultures

company-culture-killers-300x285What is an organizational culture?

By nature, a culture is supposed to be driven by a community and should be progressive. Now an organization’s culture should be able to do just that; and so the essential aspects are – leaders with their vision and goals; whether team-members are clear and aligned to them; and what is done about developing knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA).

This phenomena of an organizational culture is as difficult as simple it is to express it. Why? No prizes for guessing as a human mind continues to be the most complicated scheme of things!

In my over 11 years of experience with Organizational Development, Talent Management and Learning & Development, I have come across so many different kinds of organizational cultures that I felt it’s time to reflect and share my experiences.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” – Margaret Wheatley

So while the table below reflects my overall experiences but this study too by Gallup has been useful – click here to read.


The table above is more about established organizations with at least 1000 employees at one location and does not echo a culture of a start-up. Next post will be about culture at a start-up!

It is really a delight to work with a culture like that of Org A because of the strong and able leadership which is sure of itself while it stays democratic. Learning and executing runs in the veins of the team-members; and cut- throat competition and gossips related to compensation and incentive schemes are alien stuff there!

Would like to know more from you about your organization and whether you would like to change anything about it.

Do leave a comment or drop me a mail at



Variables of Engagement

Some of our fondest memories of childhood are the summer vacations – the visits to relatives or just general tourism. We were free to do what we like (well… almost free), no stress, lots of play and this play wasn’t just fun, there was a lot of discovering and inventing involved.

Fast-forward a few years and we are adults, working in an organization, still loving vacations as much as we did earlier. After all, vacations are synonymous with exploring, doing, walking, adventure, eating – in summary – a lot of stimulation to our senses. Our concentration levels, our energies, our connection with environment is at all time high.

Once back at workplace, everything is routine (and mostly a drag) again.

No, I don’t mean to blaspheme here; but that’s what some studies say, such as:

– Worldwide, only 13% of employees are “engaged” at work. – Gallup 2013
– The traditional definition of engagement — the willingness of employees to voluntarily expend extra effort — is no longer sufficient to fuel the highest levels of performance. – Towers Watson, Global Work Force Study in 2012

I would say that engagement is equal to stimulation of senses; when our natural faculties, such as Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual (MEPS), are involved and throbbing.

It is safe to say – that an organization is no amusement park but a place to work and achieve exponential goals OR that it is ever difficult now to engage people due to rapidly advancing technology and sources of mind-distraction.

But if you look back at the reasons why we enjoy those vacations that not only pique our interest but also absorb us are that they are adventurous and exploratory. There is so much random learning involved and it’s all such fun – as long as you don’t feel looted by the locals of course!

So a few checks to ensure at work-place are:

– Have creative forums for learning – debates, play-sessions, role-plays, healthy-challenges etc

– Learn how to give and receive feedback – different strokes for different folks!

– Have regular, disciplined breaks – a power-nap after lunch is an accepted phenomenon now

– Avoid carrying work to home – mind gets baked with stress when cluttered and over-loaded

There could be many more ways; keep experimenting with MEPS!

Suggested Reading – World Wide Employee Engagement – by Gallup

Well Designed Learning – Part 2

Well Designed Learning - Part 2

You take your kid out for a party and at the dinner table, a lady guides your kid how to fold a napkin, something you haven’t taught yet. You just watch how she tutors; and how the kid learns and practice. What will you do next time your kid’s at the dining-table – tick as many:

1 remind about the session with that lady?
2 most likely, you would’ve forgotten about that session?
3 make fun or ignore if the kid’s trying to replicate that session’s learning?
4 appreciate if the kid’s trying to replicate that session’s learning?

You see, it’s about the nourishment you provide to get the desired behavior from an individual. Just enrolling them (not only kids but also adults) to a learning event is not enough. It has to be supported with some chain-reactions aka follow-ups and reminders as you not only save the efforts made earlier but you also discover more.

PS: options 2 & 3 above are bad choices.

Some ways to embed the learning are:

1 Ask the learner to share the lessons in a forum – can be documented too.
2 Give project based assignments – encourage creativity here.
3 Design assessments – spread these over a period of time.
4 Ask the learner to share more ideas – to upgrade existing content or for next steps.

And most importantly, initiate competency based learning designs, otherwise like Cheshire Cat said to Alice, “if you don’t have a destination to reach to, all the roads are the same”!

Well Designed Learning – Part 1

Image Courtesy -

Image Courtesy –

As promised in my previous post – Cheerless Hands at Work – here’s some bits of thoughts to ‘designing a learning intervention’.

One of the most prevailing practices as part of Learning Needs Analysis is asking the employees about the kind of learning workshop they wish to attend. This exercise is mostly done annually, administered till senior middle management and could be for behavioral or skill development purposes.

Typically a list of most celebrated workshops is circulated and employees are requested to select the most appealing options; a standard list contains:

1 Work-life Balance
2 Time Management
3 Interpersonal Communication
4 Performance Management
5 Change Management
6 Decision Making
7 Language Skills
8 Others

The list could be longer and the workshop-names may vary.

Of course, this exercise seems like a fair one because the employees are getting a chance to select what they wish to learn.
But this exercise is like buying a book without reading the preface or the table of contents!

I.e., this exercise is flawed because there’s no indication that:

1 – why a workshop has been selected
2 – what challenges the employee is facing
3 – which aspects will be part of the workshop-content

To summarize, there’s no clue that why a workshop should be done and how; and the result is a potpourri of whatever!

If an exercise such as this should be conducted at all then it should be supported by more features such as:

1 the employees can express the challenges they are facing – best done face to face and an appropriate batch-wise workshop should be designed.

2 an effectiveness evaluation to be executed – could be a pre/post evaluation for learning and behavioral changes or a project based assessment for the batch-mates.

3 to further notch it up, you may regularly conduct case-study based assignments for the workshop(s) they attend – this is just to keep the momentum flowing.

When the employees go through such a condensed and focused workshop; the learning is lasting and the environment fun!

Look forward to Part 2 of Well Designed Learning!

Cheerless Hands at Work!

Cheerless Hands at Work!

The deadline has been met, the follow-ups are being done, the file has been submitted but still you, the boss, senses that the work is sloppy. There’s lack of energy, improper/age-old updates, not enough insights to name a few; no cheer in the work done.

What do you do now?
A – Ignore
B – Reprimand
C – Wait for the next review
D – Are you looking for an option that says, ‘it depends’?
(I have rarely seen a well-constructed mentorship program, so skipping that here!)

These four options are primarily damaging behaviors at work.
Let’s consider an example – India is cricket crazy and more so about Sachin Tendulkar (if only he could continue) but there was a time in his career when he had sloppy hands at cricket. This was the time when he was the captain of the Indian cricket team. It took a few matches to realize this and to put him back to his original role of individual contributor.

We all realize deep down that not everybody can do everything, we can’t do everything, at least not flawlessly. Just that, if we still need to (and we still may fail), we must go through a well designed learning intervention. An intervention that converts cheerless hands to cheerful ones in this new financial year.

What’s a well designed learning intervention now?

More on this in up-coming posts; meanwhile, suggest reading – Beware the Busy Manager by Harvard Business Review.

Fun and Learning

Image Courtesy -

Image Courtesy –

When you close your eyes and think of the word ‘FUN’. Do you picture yourself as:

– Trekking on Himalayas or the Alps?
– Some amazing family or friend’s time?
– Sitting on a beach with a drink in one hand and a crisp in the other?
– Anything else (it’s your idea of fun, you can think of something else)?

Now who doesn’t want to have such fun in each moment of their conscious life and in fact, if each moment were fun, who would want to sleep at all?!

Additionally, as seekers of fun, humans have created some amazing and blaring ways to have fun. It’s an essential part of our progress-chart.

We want to stay in fun and be with fun; this idea of fun is so contagious that it has percolated down to the way we learn. And why not, if we are going to change or upgrade our knowledge, skills or attitude, it should be fun.

But in this blind-love for fun, we by-pass the essence of learning because what we become interested in is the non-stop engagement of mind. The facilitator of the learning is looked upon as an entertainer and a person who can humor people for those few hours; (unfortunately) playfulness is constantly sought.

It’s very important here that we re-visit the adult-learning principles by Malcolm Knowles, a fundamentalist influencer of learning theories:

• Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
• Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
• Adults are goal oriented
• Adults are relevancy oriented
• Adults are practical
• Adult learners like to be respected

Yes, such people do exist and they exist in all of us!

Getting lost in irrelevant gimmicks, humor or activities is as bad as facilitating no learning at all. The more contextual the learning is and the more it is designed keeping these principles in mind, the more progressive the environment will be – now that’s fun!

So here are a few things you can ignite the atmosphere with:

• Debates
o Top tip – be a sharp moderator

• Role-plays
o Top tip – have an eye for de-brief

• Team-tasks
o Top tip – brief and de-brief; practice, practice and practice this

• Self-assessments or case-studies
o Top tip – don’t copy, create one

Could be many more; do share your thoughts in the comment section!