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How Culture Reflects Organizational Structure?

A lever has a simple mechanism but possesses enough operational capacity to lift heavy loads. It is a system comprised of a long bar and a fulcrum point. These two components together bring about a new function. In systems thinking, this is called emergence. If you don’t have a lever or if you have one made of incompatible parts, training someone to use it is meaningless. This situation is similar not only in mechanical systems but also in social systems. Trying to influence behavior without working on the structure is a futile effort that will not yield any results.

What is in question here is a matter of prioritization. For companies that do not work on their structure, the training and development programs they provide for their employees often fall short. A critical mistake is not taking structural changes into account at all.

Let’s delve into another example to better comprehend how structural interventions can have enduring impacts compared to event-oriented actions. This will provide insight into the profound influence of system-wide changes, demonstrating that transformations at the structural level often result in more lasting and significant improvements. By examining this in detail, we can understand why event-based solutions may provide temporary relief but do not offer comprehensive, sustainable outcomes like structural interventions do. So, let’s dive deeper to illuminate the long-term effectiveness of these systemic strategies.

After the 1992 European Football Championship, the back-pass to the goalkeeper was forbidden. The main reason for introducing the back-pass rule was to reduce the amount of time-wasting and boring behavior. Before that goalkeepers were allowed to pick the ball up if one of their teammates passed it to them. Back-passing was used to waste time, and football matches looked very stupid before the ban. Let’s go back to 1992 when Denmark won the European championship. Denmark’s goalkeeper Schmeichel, as well as their defenders, ran down the clock. They abused the back-pass rule over and over again. The announcer laughed in one part of the match ironically when he witnessed such a lot of back-passes, while the supporters of Germany were whistling and protesting. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that back-passes played a big role in Denmark’s European championship win. There is no reason to blame players who spend time handling back passes to keep the score advantage. Rules are the main element that forms the structure of the game and the behaviors are just a consequence of that structure

Imagine that without changing the rules – the structure of the game -, you train goalkeepers so that they will understand what football fans expect from them. Would this help to alter the behavior to avoid using back-passes to consume time? Of course, there is no reason to have this as a solution. To influence the behavior of the people, we have to change the structure.

There have been some impacts of changing the rule and banning the back-pass after 1992. First of all, it changed the time-wasting back-pass behavior and improved the quality of the game. There had been some accidental happenings during the adaptation period like own goals, breaking the rules by forgetting, etc. The change in the game’s structure required new skills, especially for goalkeepers and other players as well. At least all the players started following up back-passes and the goalkeepers could be capable of taking the ball under pressure and pinging passes across the pitch.

This is arguably one of the most illuminating examples of changing the behavior by changing the rules -structure- of a game. Changing just one rule created several results in the different components of the game. And a decision triggered several effects that lead to taking further decisions in other related parts. The requirement for new skills emerged, especially during the adaptation period people struggled to get used to the new rule because of their old habits.

Key Takeaways

Therefore, without changing the structure the culture will not change. Organizations cannot create leadership or any desired culture only by training people. Culture is mostly a reflection of the system. Changing one particular structure of the system has a chaining effect on the interrelated parts of the system. It is meaningless to complain about the behavior of the leaders and/or the teams. No one is guilty of anything, people tend to behave similarly within a specific system. If there is resistance to change, it indicates an impediment and/or an improvement point about the transformation approach and process that needs to be fixed. The best way to deal with the resistance to change is not to create it.

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