Things are only impossible until they’re not. -Captain Picard, ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’
One of my favorite shows is Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now I did watch the original Star Trek with Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and McCoy almost religiously and loved every episode. But it went off the air and I went to college and it was 18 years before a new version hit television. Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes were less macho and portrayed leadership as more (dare I say) “sensitive”, more collegial and less “all knowing”. Captain Picard was the modern leader.
But what really hooked me on the new series was the “holodeck”; a large room on the Starship Enterprise where the computer could create any reality as a hologram environment such that the crew could live out their fantasies. They could have the computer create a program to simulate the wild west of the early 19th Century and pretend to be small town Marshalls and outlaws, or create the illusion of sailing on a pirate ship. Great fun.
Now the concept of a hologram is pretty interesting. I can’t fathom the math or the physics, but one way to describe a hologram is to compare it to a photograph. If you take a photograph and cut it in half you get a left piece and a right piece, which when put together make the picture whole. Cutting the photograph into 4 pieces would give you four different parts of the original photo.
Now a hologram is a different kind of picture. If you (could) cut a holographic picture in half each half would contain the entire original picture. Cutting it into quarters would give four complete original pictures, only smaller. And so on. You could cut the hologram into a hundred pieces and each piece would be a complete version of the original picture, just smaller.
A strong corporate culture is like a holographic picture while a weak culture is more like a photo. If your culture is strong, then no matter what part of the company you look at you will find the entire culture alive and well. But if your corporate culture is weak, existing mostly as a wall plaque or in words during a speech, then as you look at various functions or departments, all you find are fractions of the original, not the entire culture. Subcultures that don’t seem to fit together very well when the company needs real teamwork and alignment to deliver high levels of performance.
The Star Trek Holodeck isn’t real, but corporate culture is. Whether you consciously create your culture or allow it to exist by default, it’s real and impacts your company’s ability to deliver on its business objectives. Culture either propels or blocks your strategic ambitions.
Is your culture a multidimensional hologram or a photograph?
Beam me up Scotty, and Tight Lines . . .
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