Have You Updated Your Cultural OS?

No items found.
Grodnitzky, Ph.D.
October 25, 2023

Operating systems (OS) are something we cannot function without. Our phones, tablets and computers have them. They allow us to tap an app that we need to perform a certain function so that we can get things done. Ideally, an OS runs in the background without drawing our attention to it, unless something goes wrong. Most importantly, operating systems are updated regularly to adapt to changes in hardware, software or the demands of users.

Everything that applies to the OS of our devices also applies to the OS of our organizational culture. Culture should run in the background (unless something goes wrong – such as a cultural norm being violated), allowing people, teams and departments to get things done. Culture should also be updated regularly to adapt to changes in the business environment.

Each Generation Changes the OS

Businesses continue to struggle with the hybrid workforce. Most companies are requiring employees to be in the office 3-4 days per week. While this is still a hybrid model, I would liken it to an older operating system.

Think about your full-time employees. Do any of them really work only 40 hours per week? Or is it more likely they work 45-50 hours at least some of the time? Do you tell them they should really work 10 hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and “regular” hours on Monday and Friday? Those may seem like absurd instructions. But, if you think about it, isn’t that what we are asking our employees to do when we prescribe specific days we want them at work?

Historically, we saw a similar OS (culture) change when Gen Xers came into the workforce.  Boomers had found great success, professionally and financially, by creating the 70- to 80-hour workweek. When Gen Xers entered the workforce, they told their Boomer peers and supervisors, “If I can do in 40 hours what it takes Joe 70 hours to do, why would you hold that against me? Don’t measure my time; measure my productivity.”

Gen Xers, however, were too small a generation to get productivity performance metrics to stick broadly. That took Millennials, whose numbers are greater. So, most organizations, at some point or another, have said to their employees, “Manage your time as you need to; we just need the job done by this deadline.”

Going to a structured hybrid environment is like going back to measuring employee hours, or, worse, controlling how many hours they are working each day.

Be the Sun, Not the Wind

My many discussions about the current hybrid workforce remind me of Aesop’s fable of the Sun and the Wind:

The Sun and the Wind are arguing over who is stronger. They see a man in a coat walking down the road. They agree that whoever can make the man take off his coat is stronger. 

The Wind goes first. It blows and blows. Clouds roll in, and the temperature drops. What does the man do with his coat? He cinches it, tight. The wind cannot force the man to take off his coat.

Then it’s the Sun’s turn. The Sun begins to shine, brighter and brighter. The clouds clear, and the temperature rises. What does the man do with his coat now? He takes it off voluntarily.

Don’t use force to get your people to come back to the office. Update your OS — your culture — by creating team-based performance metrics that can only be accomplished through in-person collaboration.  

People genuinely want to be successful at work. If you give them metrics that are team-based and collaborative, they will come back to the office voluntarily because that’s what it takes to succeed. Be the Sun, not the Wind.

Simple conceptually. Challenging to execute.

That’s why we’re here. Let us know how we can help and support you as you update your OS.

I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note.

More articles

Be the first to know about new articles, courses, and keynotes