“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” ~Julia Child
I must confess, I enjoy watching cooking programs on the lifestyle channels on TV. It really doesn’t matter if its Italian, French, British, or Cowboy cooking (recently Jamie Oliver went to the US and did a segment on outdoor cowboy cooking). My favourite shows, however, are the ones that mix cooking and travel to exotic countries. Makes me want to pack a bag, hop a plane and go eat strange food and drink beer.
And every once in a while after watching one of the shows and taking notes, I try to recreate the dishes at home. I’ve got the written recipe, I buy the same ingredients, I’ve got the right pots and pans, I’ve set aside the time. But somehow, it just never comes out the same as it looks on the TV programme and the taste is always lacking something. Certainly not like my mind envisioned the dish. Usually a big letdown for my taste buds!
Knowing what vs why!
My problem with cooking like the pros is that I have “rented” knowledge and not “experiential or operational” knowledge. I am not skilled at the real operational activities of cooking, like understanding when to turn off the flame when par-boiling or how long to beat egg whites to just the right consistency, or how adding a liquid when poaching fish changes the cooking dynamics. These and a thousand other of the finer points of cooking can only be learned by experience, by doing, not by watching TV or reading a recipe.
Those who only know what will alway lose out to those who know why! ~Thomas D. Willhite
Culture Change and “Rented” Knowledge
A lot of companies embark on culture change believing that they need to change, but only have “rented” knowledge when it comes to the what, how and why of sustainable culture change.
Culture change is radically different from the type of change management practiced inside of many companies for IT transformation, process engineering change, supply chain changes, etc. These are processes based on logic, data, analysis and changing from one set of systems and metrics to another.
Culture change, on the other hand, deals more with behaviours and human issues of trust and respect than with business processes and logic. Corporate culture has multiple moving parts, not the least of which is the fact that there is no one single corporate culture. What many of those with rented knowledge think of as the overall corporate culture is actually a collection of strong, and sometimes very distinct, subcultures.
Which then begs the question, how do you change multiple subcultures, each one being very different, and bring them into alignment?
Ask those with rented culture change knowledge and they will revert to the standard organisation change methodology: top-down, leader-led communications and employee training around a new set of “corporate values”.
Does it produce lots of activity and initial interest? Yes. Does it produce any lasting, sustainable shift in the culture? No.
Those who understand that culture is really about behaviours and are experienced at culture change, use a very different approach. Because they understand that subcultures are collections of people who believe and behave in similar ways, and that at the center of most strong subcultures there is usually an “informal leader” who is respected and trusted by those within the subculture. And recent studies have shown that informal leaders have 4-8 times the social impact (eg., respect and trust) than senior management.
Want to reshape your culture?
Identify, recruit and deploy the informal leaders inside your organisation. We call this, Viral Change. And by the way, they usually aren’t the people on HR’s “High Potential” lists. The sad fact is, most senior executives have no idea who these informal leaders are nor can they identify the subcultures within their own company!
So, next time you want to make a fabulous Coq au Vin like Julia Child, remember the difference between operational knowledge and rented knowledge. You might want to bring in a real chef, or take the family out to a good French restaurant.
And if you are thinking about culture and culture change in your organisation, seek out those who have just more than “rented knowledge”.
Better yet, give me a call and let’s discuss your situation in detail.
See the review of LEVERAGE in The Economist (January 9, 2014).
John also writes thriller novels: novels.johnrchildress.com