How to understand what kind of group culture you work in


What is the culture like where you work?
How do you know how to articulate the kind of culture you work in?
In the book ,”Tribal Leadership,” by Dave Logan, Halee Fischer-Wright, and John King, they broke it out into 5 categories. I read this book over 10 years ago, and it has had a profound impact on my approach.
All people who gather in groups can be defined as tribes. The group of people you work with everyday has a culture that should fit into one of these 5 stages. It has been a great asset to me to be able to identify and have awareness of the type of group I’m in when I go to a client. Most importantly, its helped me try to be conscious about the kind of culture I help encourage at Skellig.
Stage 1
The group motto here is “life sucks”. This is usually the kind of culture you find in gangs and prison. Hopefully you aren’t working in a group that belongs to this stage!
Stage 2
The group motto here is “My life sucks”. This is usually a place where people are just trying to get by. Nobody cares about the work or has any passion for what they do. People blame coworkers and management for their woes. Although the DMV (Where Patty and Selma work in the Simpsons) I go to is great, a lot of people site this type of environment as stage 2.
Stage 3
This group motto is “I’m great.. and you’re not”. Most businesses and teams are here. People here feel good about themselves and their individual contribution and they complain about the people around them not being as smart as they are. People feel deserving of special individual financial recognition.
Stage 4
This group motto is “we are great”. In these groups people work together toward a common goal, they share common values and work against a common competitor. Instead of individual recognition, its all about group recognition.
Stage 5
This group motto is “life is great”. In these groups there is no focus on competitors, only a just cause. These groups are focused on impact. One example given in the book of a Stage 5 Culture was Genentech in the early days (70’s and 80’s). Nowadays, most pharma/biotech companies have lined their halls with pictures of people whose lives they’ve positively impacted. Genentech was the first. Genentech employees would list cancer as their competitor not another pharma company.
The take away is not many groups or companies make it to Stage 4. This is something you can impact if you have the power to influence or build a team. Choose people who share values, preferably your values and energize them around a common cause.
Being aware of the culture of your group is very important for your own career development.

Henry Ford on Experts

Henry Ford, who founded the Ford Motor Company, had a lot of cool stuff to say. This quote, like a few others, has stuck with me.It is profound and has changed how I think when someone describes themselves as an expert.

“None of our men are ‘experts.’ We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the ‘expert’ state of mind a great number of things become impossible.”

I’ve found this to be often true. I’ve come across some very smart people who learn something well and then get stuck in their ways. They fail to evolve or leave themselves closed to new and potentially better ways of doing things.

There’s a difference between an actual expert, who’s no talk, and a hack, who’s all talk.

It’s the person who shows up to a project, solution in hand! They are the hammer and every project is a nail. This expert thinking usually results in missed opportunities to make something better. it also results in missed opportunities to improve their own craft.

We as engineers are particularly susceptible to this. Beware of hubris.

Have confidence in your ability to add value but don’t forget to keep learning.

The Speed of Implementation

Speed of implementation is a critical skill to foster if you want to grow your effectiveness as an engineer. As soon as you learn something, you need to practice it. Learn by doing; it’s easier said than done.

Whether building competence through learning or generating ideas and putting them to use, the same critical habit is required: speed of implementation.

Technological innovation is speeding up. If you have an idea, it’s very likely a number of other people have a similar thought or idea at the same time. That’s why it’s becoming more and more critical to move and act on an idea as fast as possible. The window of opportunity for a particular improvement or advancement is getting tighter and tighter.

The increasing consequences on relative laggards is very evident if you look at the general trend of how long companies and industries survive.

A researcher named Richard Foster calculated that in 1958 a company in the S&P 500 could expect to stay on the list for 61 years.  Today it’s 18.

Delay is suicide. What if the founders of Uber had waited a few years to launch their idea? If they had started three years later, their company would probably have had 1% of the success that Uber enjoys today.

When you’re thinking of building a product, the idea is less likely to be viable the longer you wait. Great ideas have a short shelf life; and its getting even shorter.

There is a story about Dan Sullivan, the strategic coach, who was running a workshop for two groups at the same time.  One group was $1000 a seat, the other group was $10,000 a seat. At some point, one of the people in the $1000 group asked Sullivan what he was teaching those people in the $10,000 group that he wasn’t teaching them. Dan said he was teaching the same stuff to both groups, and in fact wasn’t getting though as much material with the $10,000 group as he was with the $1000 group. He said the $10,000 group needed to go though the materials slower as they were trying to really understand the subject matter. Also, as soon as they got it they immediately needed a break so they could try to apply what they’d learned.

Test out your idea in the real world immediately, because the window is not going to stay open for very long.

If you just learned something useful, practice it right away.

If you just had a great idea, try to take the next step right away.