We are relational beings and are encouraged to use the gifts (talents) we have received to serve others. We do this through relationships, fellowship with others, that provide meaning to life and foster interactions of understanding that uncover potential for individual and corporate growth. Leadership is a person’s responsible action in relationship with others and it is in the context of guiding principles and core values that this growth takes place via pursuit and ultimate achievement of one or more goals. This action encourages the setting of priorities and lays the groundwork for recognizing the potential of an individual, as well as an institution.
Potential is difficult to get your arms around. You can’t hold it or touch it, It has no weight, no mass, and no presence. It is that which could be but is not, the reality that is not yet. It is always there, in front of you, and your mission is to use your requisite intent and launch it into existence, to make it a vital force that becomes a contributing ingredient in your personal development, as well as that of others. A relevant metaphor comes to us from the field of physics. Potential energy is a form of energy that is stored and is ready for use, e.g., a coiled spring. When that energy begins moving, it is referred to as kinetic energy, e.g., a moving car. The point here is that potential is stored within each of us, ready for use, ready to begin moving, ready to become energy in motion. Personal, as well as group interactions, call forth these stored essentials and stimulate the flow of creative ideas which point us toward actions that yield growth. It may be of interest to note that the term, InternaSource, derives from the foregoing, i.e., it is a combination of two terms, internal and resource, indicating that within each individual are the seeds of greatness, potential energy waiting to be discovered and developed so that they become kinetic energy, energy in motion.
As we reflect on potential and kinetic energy relative to one’s behavior or that of a group, we come face-to-face with values and principles. Everyone must deal with values because they are the qualities or standards that govern our behavior and are essential to appreciate all that we consider being true, good, and beautiful, and principles because they are rules or beliefs that govern our actions and are based on our values. It is necessary that values be ranked in order of importance because they provide a basis for action and give us some idea as to whether our lives or projects and those of our institutions are proceeding as planned and are on track. Additionally, they provide an opportunity to measure ourselves and institutions today vs. yesterday and determine priorities relative to what actions we must take in order to become the person or organization we want for tomorrow. Values play a biological and social role in the life of an individual and community and must be carefully studied and understood.
With the above in mind, there are two questions worthy of thought. The first is, “How may we give due consideration to values and principles and facilitate their permeating, thus influencing individual and group life?” The second is, “What does all of this have to do with culture and why is understanding culture so important?”
Defining culture is a challenging task. In view of its complex nature and variability of opinions that are attributed to learned people, let us consider a collection of thoughts that reflect our beliefs.
Culture is all the human occurrences or circumstances which are not the result of human genetics. It results from the collective behavior of individuals within an institution. This behavior is often developed in response to a variety of directives, e.g., guiding principles for proper conduct, institutional policies, strategic plans, and so on. It is a learned way of life shared by associates that is central to the way things are done in an institution and reflects their customs, traditions, attitudes, values, and knowledge. Culture provides important social and economic benefits and is the medium through which the institution achieves its purpose. Once established, it is recognized as a collection of features that describe the institution and when new individuals join the institution, they endorse the culture and adjust their behavior accordingly.
While cultures are not necessarily static, they tend to resist change, and those that characterize an institution do so as members of that institution establish thoughtful and protective rules or requirements that are often referred to as “Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).” SOPs are intended to maintain a focus on the principles and processes that have sustained the institution over time and are useful in that when a new or uninitiated individual in an institution is unsure of proper behavior or how to approach a given challenge, a quick look at the well-developed “SOP Manual” will often provide an answer. Even though this tool helps keep all members of the institution on or near the “same page” and maintain the status quo, it can also stand in the way of innovation, generation of new ideas, and when desired, ultimate growth of the institution. To be sure, cultures are extremely difficult to change but change can be facilitated given enough determination and patience on part of those interested in making it happen. Assuming that a change is called for and the current culture is a roadblock, what is an effective, deferential approach to achieving the desired outcome?
One approach to changing a culture is the development and implementation of a strategic plan. To be effective and considerate of others within the institution, it must include input from and participation of as many people in the institution as possible. Taking this important step encourages “ownership” of the plan and facilitates its implementation.
At a minimum, the plan calls for a long-term vision for the institution – usually no less than 5 years – identification of a purpose that will be accepted by all people in the institution and “move” them in a direction that will achieve that vision, then goals, strategies, tactics, action steps, and metrics that will fulfill requirements of the purpose. Obviously, there is much more to be said about a strategic plan, but when sufficiently complete (We use the term, “sufficiently complete” rather than “complete” because a good plan is a “living document,” changes from time to time and is never actually finished.), the next major step is implementation.
Implementation of a strategic plan is time-consuming and exceedingly difficult. Even though many people have participated in the developmental process, few are familiar with the “product” as experienced from its beginning to its end. Therefore, ownership is taken for the developed portion in which they were participants, but not necessarily the developed portions in which they were not participants. Therefore, there is a significant need for the educational process to take place, one that explains the various parts of the plan that are included, why they are included, and what the results (payoff) will be when implemented and planned outcomes achieved. One highly effective approach to achieving these “educational endpoints,” is a small group initiative, an initiative that includes many small groups – six people in each group is a good number – where all parts of the plan are discussed to assure understanding and “buy-in.”
Cultures can maintain the stability of an organization and reflect the values and principles that made that organization what it is. Culture can also resist change and interfere with the change necessary for healthy growth. Since change is necessary for an institution to exist long-term, it is our proposal that consideration is given to a Small Group Initiative.
The small group provides for learning new information in a highly acceptable setting and applying that information through group discussions that provide the application of that new information through rehearsals that mimic real-life experiences in a non-threatening atmosphere.