Having shared passengership on an ill-fated cruise, three professionals (a mechanical engineer, a chemist and an economist) find themselves marooned on a desert island with no source of nourishment but cans of tuna. Together, using emergency equipment from a life-raft, they have fashioned a means to capture fresh water from rain and condensation. Having mitigated the risk of dying of thirst, the three now turn their problem-solving skills to avoiding starvation:
Mechanical Engineer: I am going to walk up the beach to see if there are rocks and vines we can use. We may be able to generate enough force to break into those cans.
Chemist: If we can get enough super-salinized water in a receptacle, we may be able to soak the cans and speed up the corrosion that will weaken the cans. I am going to start by digging a hole in the sand.
Economist: I’ll set the table.
Both non-economists in unison: Hey! We can’t eat until we get these cans open!
Economist: Oh, sorry. I should have told you. I am assuming that we have a can opener.
The metaphor here is for the problem: “how do we open these cans of tuna?” and the point of the joke is that we all bring our own tools and orientations to any problem. “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” is yet another humourous illustrating of the weight of our own expertise in driving the action we think is best.
Rather than mocking economists for making assumptions, this joke illustrates that we all make assumptions all the time. In dealing with areas that are complex and have a degree of ambiguity (like managing performance in any business), we have to make some assumptions and make some decisions based on less-than-certain data and evidence.
Perhaps, once our two non-economists gently raise awareness to the fact that the stated assumption does not hold, our economist can engage in a more impactful supportive role. Such moments of redirection require a fairly specific context that includes shared focus, mutual trust and assertive communications.
Yet, wellness in the long-term care sector is rarely discussed. Distress due to difficult working conditions is often dismissed as a part of the job description. Workers are expected to “suck it up” and manage their own emotions on their own time.
The sector is currently being held together by a very vulnerable workforce and it is situated to fail without immediate intervention.
Support for self-care and protection from moral distress
In our research, we examined the impacts of two critical psychological safety factors on the long-term care workforce amidst the COVID-19 pandemic — support for self-care and protection from moral distress. Health-care workers expressed the increased need for resources to support their well-being and to address longstanding workforce issues. Five recommendations for a stronger long-term care sector are proposed.
1. Address long-standing structural issues
Structural issues have been brought to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes issues that are economic, social and organizational in nature.
While the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenges facing the long-term care sector, workers stated that these issues are not new. Rather, decades of neglect and lack of funding has made low pay and unsafe working conditions acceptable.
The pandemic intensified existing problems with staffing shortages. In 2020, long-term care staff members made up more than 10 per cent of Canada’s total COVID-19 infection cases. Further, restricting informal caregivers from entering homes contributed to increased workloads.
Institutional support for any sort of resource (mental health, personal protective equipment (PPE), staffing) was stretched thin to keep care homes running. Resource limitations kept the hands of management teams tied, suggesting that distress was endemic across the sector.
2. Continuing education and training for self-care
Supporting staff through continuing education and training can increase their capacity for psychological self-care and help protect them from moral distress.
Educational sessions connect staff with other staff, allowing them to share their expertise and frustrations — helping to alleviate conflicts and tensions amongst teams. Virtual forums can be used for peer-to-peer learning, community building and moral support.
Training must be made available to all staff. Our study found that unregulated staff such as personal support workers were often not invited to take part in training programs or company resources.
3. Invest in leadership development
Improved leadership can foster improved team functioning.
Bullying and gossip is particularly rampant in the long-term care workplace. Workers expect one another to work through distress and asking for a day off can be seen as a weakness and increasing the workload for others.
Supportive managers are critical to the psychological well-being of staff. A study on transformative leadership found a reciprocal relationship between leadership, self-reported staff well-being, team efficacy and self-efficacy — leading to job satisfaction and well-being. Transformative leaders encourage employees to create change inwardly by connecting professional goals to a wider sense of belonging in their workplace.
Underfunding and resource constraints make it difficult to provide meaningful and accessible supports, reducing workers’ ability to protect themselves against moral distress in the workplace.
Funnelling resources and funding into this sector will not only improve staffing. It is critical for reducing the rapid turnover caused by uncontrolled exposure to COVID-19.
5. Supportive human resource policies
Long-term care needs to develop and/or improve human resource policies that support workers and acknowledge their value.
Low wages and precarious employment characterize this sector. Workers were fearful to take time off to get the COVID-19 vaccine for fear of losing wages.
Part-time and contract workers in the sector, often personal support workers, are not eligible for medical benefits and must pay out-of-pocket for injuries incurred at work. Many of these workers are racialized, immigrant women. Workers also often do not have entitlement to paid sick days. These factors point to systemic discrimination and undervaluing compared to other professionals in the sector.
A call to action
The Royal Society of Canada argues that the very first step to tackling the long-term care crisis is through workforce reform and redesign. This not only addresses low wages and resource shortages but serves more importantly to rebuild trust and dignity. To bolster support for the sector, public awareness and advocacy play a key role in advancing health-care reform.
I have a vivid memory of a self-evaluation from my undergrad days at McGill. We had to take a writing course, which must have been a cross-cultural exercise for the Faculty of English instructors that ventured into the Business building for these weekly encounters. There was a self-evaluation at the end of it, which, if I recall correctly, included a pre-amble that encouraged reflection on your development over the 12 weeks, as well as your ability compared to your classmates. I think I may have been guilted into responding “B+” and admitting that I could really have done more. I talked to classmates afterwards, some of whom skipped a number of classes. Their responses were “A. Can I give myself an A+?” (Note: A+ was not an option. McGill operated on the U.S. 4-point GPA system.)
This is a very obvious example of the challenges of “self-evaluations.” Self-attribution bias leads us to truly believe that we excel. Self-preservation instincts dampen the guilt of over stating the truth because these results can create positive future options or avoid negative future outcomes. For the undergrad business student, “strong marks = better job opportunities upon graduation” so, go for the A. In a business context, if staffing cuts are looming, do you really want to have a mediocre self-evaluation in the HR file?! I wonder how many of my fellow graduates, decades into their business careers, have grown to learn that actual strength in writing provides a significant advantage in the workplace.
The self-evaluation brings the performer’s perspective into the discussion, which is absolutely crucial and applies to an organizational context. In addition to “perspective,” objectivity is also vital and this is enabled by clear criteria. The healthiest criteria mix features both “what you do” (e.g. somewhat controllable; gets at “how” your get results) and “what you accomplish” (e.g. somewhat more impacted by external factors; focussed on outcomes).
The evaluation becomes less of an assault on the ego if we can validate that someone did “what was expected” even if they did not “achieve expected results.” This demands some time and effort up front to go through the exercise of making logical connections between activity and results. You have to be ready for a reasoned conversation about what drives performance.
“How are we doing?” is a big question
For an organization, the questions about “what results do you want to achieve?” and “what do you think gives the best chance at achieving those results?” are really big questions that bring out some deep-seeded assumptions. A good strategic discussion will expose these and will explore some of the big decisions behind some of our assumptions. This should surface options to move forward rather than a clear best way. Imagine interactions where people say, “We said we are trying to reduce T&E, so we can’t fly everyone down for this meeting,” OR “We said that our focus was growing our business with our top-tier accounts, so we can’t get too anxious because we lost some tier-3 business.”
Like anything, involvement breeds acceptance, so it makes sense to have a senior-team conversation to tease out relevant expected outcomes and relevant expected actions. When you are involved in creating your own report card, the evaluation feels less daunting. This may turn down the volume on the “self-attribution bias” and the “self-preservation instinct.”
Every once in a while you will see the “Everything important I learned in Kindergarten” claims that list insights like: clean up after yourself, share everything, be nice to others and wash your hands before you eat. I find myself thinking about the responsibility of business schools (especially at the graduate level) to encourage business-ready behaviours in addition to business-ready thinking. A big part of this, in my opinion, is dialling down the teacher-student dynamic whereby the latter is extremely attentive to discerning what the former wants to hear and restricts all commentary accordingly. There is an interesting transition from “what are your expectations for a deliverable?” to “what should I write for the deliverable?” I know managers face the same challenge in dealing with some direct reports.
School can be an exciting and stressful time for students and any instructor has to deal with a wide range of behaviours. As an instructor in an MBA program, I frequently use the litmus test of “would this be tolerated/encouraged in an effective workplace?” to determine my responses to some of the more notable cases. Consistent with this, in my opinion, an effective workplace would not have employees pandering in the aforementioned manner to the “bosses,” although I know that such corporate cultures and managerial styles do exist.
There are two big buckets of behaviours that catch my focus:
Surprise and delight – e.g. Wow! I didn’t even ask you to / tell you to do that.
Jaw dropping – e.g. Wow! Someone has to ask you / tell you to do (not to do) that?
The contents of Bucket #1 often shed a light on areas where I could have been much more clearer with my instructions. As I find myself with dozens of downloaded files with the title “mid term,” the file stands out when it includes the student’s name and other identifying information (e.g. chris_irwin_mid-term_ WED class). People often talk about little things making a big difference, but the impact of that alone is huge. Perhaps those who include it have received guidance in the past (e.g. please include your name and section number in the file name). Perhaps they have been in a similar multiple-file-receiving situation themselves. I can’t help but draw the assumption that this is an example of someone thinking “My professor will get a lot of these. What can I do to make their life a little easier?” (Note: I am fully aware that any future student, having read this, may engage in that specific practice because they know that is what I want.)
The agonizingly opposing actions (destined for Bucket #2) is the response: “You didn’t tell us we had to…” Understandably, this is most often in response to students losing marks for things… and usually the student is “right” in that I could have told them. (Equating “grades” and “performance evaluations” is a topic for another time.) Invoking my earlier litmus test, should someone at a Masters level of education be expecting to be told everything they need to do? My answer to this is, “No,” but I am sure there are differing responses that are completely reasonable. In some work contexts, it is reasonable to be prescriptive about the tasks involved. I have heard many a manager complain that their team members are too quick to say “just tell me what to do,” rather than be reasonably pro-active… maybe thinking “I do have some questions, but my boss is really busy; can I do anything to make my bosses life easier?”
In addition to analysis tools and skills, in addition to practical conceptual frameworks, I think that business schools have a responsibility to promote behaviours that will lead to success in the workplace (and discourage behaviours that won’t). Idealistic as this may be, if we go back to the litmus test, we are looking for behaviours that align with an “effective workplace.” Whether these behaviours are the cause or the effect of business success is an academic question (that could be kicked around a business school!).
Let’s describe “an organization” as a collection of people with some degree of shared purpose (what we are doing) interacting within norms of some similarity (how we do things).
The “how we do things” can be dictated by formal policies, guiding language and/or understood norms. Each workplace context, in my experience, is different, so a brilliant element from one context does not guarantee success in another. So questions like “what if Disney ran your hospital?” make me cringe, as would an efforts to replicate Google’s success by adopting its famed policy of mandating one day per week to work on things unrelated to your job.
By their very nature, “rules” tend to have “exceptions,” which brings additional complexity, as does the ability and willingness to enforce the rules. There are also predictable negative responses to overt rules and guidelines. For illustrative purposes, and to take a break from conceptual discussions, let’s look at a tangible example of one “rule” and its impact: the off-leash dog park. If this environment were a workplace, the misalignment between this stated rule and the observed behaviours would create a poisonous culture.
NOTE: At the risk of stating the obvious, the “off-leash” part of these particular parks suggests that it is OK to have your dog “off leash” in this area, and “against the rules” to have dogs “off leash” in other areas.
1 – “There are so many rules; no one follows them all.”
If there is a rule that no one follows, let’s call it a bad rule. Well meaning people don’t follow “bad rules” because it is nonsensical and enforcement is sporadic at best. (e.g. keep the dog on leash when the bylaw officer is around). The logic of some rules can conger up Jerry Seinfeld’s comedic questioning of the California motorcycle helmet law intended to protect a brain whose judgement was so poor as to ride at high speeds with no protection whatsoever.
So, if the “off-leash” rule is a good rule, let’s explain some of the underlying logic: this creates designated space creates where people can’t complain about the dogs being off leash. If you don’t like being around dogs that are off leash, don’t go in there. As both a dog owner and a parkland runner, that is the exact reason why I choose not to run in the off leash areas. Make sense?
In a workplace context, efforts to demonstrate compliance can create vast numbers of rules and regulations. In the practice of collaboration, an over-developed need to reduce culpability risk can take away from the positive effect of good rules. If you have a good rule, it would be a useful practice to provide the rationale and/or be ready to answer “why?” should it arise. (On the latter point, the guidance “Ask Why?” has been forever sullied by its association with Enron.)
2 – “I am aware of the rule, but it doesn’t apply to me.”
There are competing ways to explain this one with differing levels of empathy toward the infractor. Aaron James, in his book “Assholes: A theory” suggests that one quick way to identify his study subject is to listen for “do you know who I am?” as a response to any assertion of rules and norms. The quip implies that if you did know, you would know that I constitute an exception to the rule. I have witnessed interactions on December 26th taking place across a counter with bold signage, “No Returns on Boxing Day.” To my chagrin, as one who appreciates good rules, the manager made “an exception” further reinforcing the attitude that the rule applies to those who don’t have the nerve (or lack of shame) to push back.
There is a less entitled mindset that, in the context of the off-leash park, will say, “Those off-leash parks are for dogs who are poorly behaved when they are off leash. My dog is fine to be off leash anywhere because he/she/it would never misbehave and hurt or startle someone.”
So back to the underlying logic: can we say that, in general, we don’t want dogs hurting or startling other people? Hurting is after the fact, which makes it tough and invokes another set of rules for dogs who have bitten. Startling can be in the eye of the beholder (e.g. don’t worry, he’s friendly offers little assurance), so, if you are easily startled, don’t go in off-leash area. Does that make sense?
3 – “I understand the rule. I just don’t like being told what to do.”
Even good rules have an uphill battle. David Rock’s SCARF model reveals that we have an uncontrolled neuro-biological resistance to anything that threatens out Autonomy (e.g. my ability to determine what is right for me). External rules are a direct assault on this, which makes any attempt to provide constraints on behaviour an uphill battle. We all have different levels of self-imposed guidelines of what we will and will not do, so if we are shaping our own behaviour, this resistance can be reduced.
Some nuanced discussion can align some underlying self-regulators with external constraints. So, the speed limit on the highway is not about a number, it is about driving safely. The sign on the post of the off-leash area is not about a boundary, but about what people can expect in different public spaces. Shoring up this space also takes the pressure off enforcement because you are doing the “right thing” for your own reasons.
If there were short take-aways from this discussion, how about these:
If you can impact the “rules” in your organization, shine a light on good rules and stamp out bad ones.
In drawing distinctions between good and bad rules, try to look at the underlying logic of what we are trying to encourage, discourage or prevent.
If you are stuck with bad rules (especially if they are sporadically enforced), find the underlying self-regulator and use that as your own rule. If you are “called out,” at least you are prepared for your side of the “why?” conversation.
All the best creating and shaping the rules by which you roll.
Earlier this month the Financial Post magazine did its feature on MBA programs part of which was MBA alumni commenting on how their education contributed to their success. Ellis Jacob (CEO of Cineplex) and Jennifer Reynolds (CEO of Women in Capital Markets) both provided excellent reinforcement of the benefits of getting a grounding in business education. From my perspective as an instructor in an MBA program, this is heartening reinforcement from the real world.
An additional common theme was a little less comforting to me: both of these leaders talked about the drive to complete the program as quickly as possible. I understand this urgency, and my discomfort is not so much in a student being anxious to get on with their career, but in the temptation to see the gaining of a credential as the secret to success rather than the rigour and thinking skills that one should develop in such a program.
Given their impressive accomplishments, I am convinced that neither of these CEOs think that learning to run a businesses comes in the form of a crash course. Ms. Reynold heads an organization that advocates for women in a sector that is heavily male-dominated for reasons that can’t easily be explained in this day and age. Mr. Jacob has to deal with an entertainment industry that has seen “Silver Screen” experiences shift from IMAX to iPhone. Likely, the most tangible learning from their respective business programs was in understanding fundamental drivers and how to adapt to change. (This means that an MBA circa 1977 or 1998 sets you up to remain current.)
In the Nobel-prize-winning work Think Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman shares how ill equipped we are to make reasoned decisions because the part of our brain that houses this competency is lazy and is quick to defer to our automatic but less thoughtful brain. Rushing through an MBA program may feel like speed meditating for quick enlightenment.
The somewhat clichéd description of higher education can be “learning how to think.” From my experience with business education (on both sides of the chalk), the real world is a wonderful, yet unforgiving forum to test your thinking and your credentials. As MBAs become more pervasive in the workplace, my hope is that the “slow learning” at the school of the real world further strengthens the educational grounding and helps this particular credential to improve with experience.
We hear about it but nothing changes (Not enough yet!)
We hear about it but what does it really mean (When is enough enough?!)
A look at the article’s comments section (which is always a dangerous move), reveals everything you need to know about the multitude of issues attached to the surprisingly complex word. Doubts and critiques expose some deep philosophical questions, as well as some statements that one is surprised to see in a written format (or not surprised, if you tend to read the comments section of publications).
A couple of things are clear about diversity:
This idea has been getting attention of late. (I recall a similar trend bubbled up around the multi-generational workforce in the last decade or so. Maybe this, too, will pass or linger.)
The word has many different interpretations and understandings
Consistent with 2, ideas vary on whether an organization needs it and, if so, how best to get it.
One of the ideas that the article attacks is diversity as a “tick-the-box activity. Fittingly, differing narratives surrounding “diversity” brings one critique that states the box-ticking organizations actually deserve credit because at least they are doing something!
Is it reasonable to say that the merits of box-ticking depends on the contents of the box?
There may be some consensus that filling the ranks with “the token [insert statistically under represented group member]” probably doesn’t work for anyone. (But I can imagine being challenged on that statement.) So, we should stay away from those kind of boxes.
Similarly, awareness building (especially when the topic is on heavy rotation in media) can also wear thin. So, maybe it’s not enough to “tick the box” on the Diversity Lunch & Learns.
If we are trying to prevent an over-reliance on predictable cognitive biases in important decisions, maybe we can tick the box on the presence of such initiatives as:
panel interviews for new hires
formal meetings of the senior leadership team to discuss and determine merit bonuses for employees above a certain level
determining tangible indicators to test the connection between our idea of diversity and our idea of performance
This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it a collection of best practices. Well-intended efforts to “do the right thing” can quickly get lost in the contentious world-view debates that risks making the situation worse. We are convinced in the merits of digging into an idea like diversity to understand how it fits into the business and find some clear ways to track the progress of distinct efforts even if that means ticking some boxes… but only the good boxes.
Long before Spike Lee’s movie, the concept of “do the right thing” was familiar to people both in the workplace and in other facets of life. The simplicity of this message is endearing, yet the complexity of work situations makes it impossible for managers to prescribe and predict the “thing” to “do” that would be “right” in all situations.
Sometimes “right” can be conveyed as a mindset rather than a set of actions. So, can we just ask people to “think the right thing” instead?
Note: A frequent frustration that I hear from managers and directors is that some of their reports need to be told what to do. Prescribing “what to think” rather than “what to do” can function as a countermeasure to such a dynamic.
I was recently working with a director in a health-care facility who found it both frustration and exhausting to try to list all the things that care aids should not do when they are in a resident’s room. (e.g. Do I really have to be telling them not to leave their gym bag in a resident’s room?!) Potentially, the more efficient communication would be “imagine that you are a guest in their house and act accordingly.” This provides a somewhat shared set of criteria to discuss the appropriateness of a behaviour (e.g. “If you were going to leave a bag in someone else’s house, you would ask first, no?”) Bringing that narrative frame could trigger a whole slew of behaviours that are consistent with “right” in that context.
People use this all the time for customer service:
The Dean of a business school briefs new faculty by saying: “In the class, treat your students as students. Outside the class, treat them as clients.”
An orthodontist conveys that she will treat your kids like they were hers.
A garage mechanics routinely says “if this was my car, I’d do it.”
Even when it comes to “the right thing,” I think there is a natural defensive reaction we all have to being told what to do and not to do. Imploring someone to adopt the “right mindset” may get beyond some of that psychological resistance and free people up to use their own judgement.
⇒ WARNING ⇐ Tread carefully in the “mindset” realm because such ideas can be powerful and pervasive. I recall being asked to deliver training on handling conflict that emerged from an unintended “mindset” consequence. Several internal teams in a hospital were given training in “customer service,” and unfortunately everyone appeared to leave the sessions thinking that they were the customer. (e.g. quick to point out deficiencies in getting what they wanted rather than focussed on meeting the expectations of others.)There is always a wrong end to the mindset stick.
There is lots of talk about “getting on the same page,” but in most work situations some level of conflict persists and can vary from subtle differences in opinion to diametrically opposed views. We all know that maintaining cordial working relationships is a must, yet too much focus appeasing diminishes our results and too much focus on our agenda carries the risk of losing status as “a team player.”
It can feel a bit like walking a tightrope and constantly balancing between
Being self assured, but not belligerent.
Being accommodating, but not spineless.
Being ambitious, but staying realistic (Picture a “stretch goal” snapping our rope!)
Maintaining forward momentum while maintaining this “balance” is also tricky. There are three large areas of attention that can help: How am I seeing the situation (and should I look at it differently)?
With reams of data at our disposal, it is very easy to arrive at very different evidence-supported answers to the question “how are we doing?” Those closest to the situation tend to have a really good read on how things actually work, but once performance measures are imposed, these same people can start to question their gut feelings. Taking time to gather a different perspective on your own may be more effective than simply taking in the perspectives of others. One part confidence; two parts humility.
Who do I have to work with (and how are those existing relationships)?
We have relationships to manage that are up, down and across. Our group of stakeholders will vary in terms of stature they maintain in the organization, but individual differences in style almost guarantees interpersonal challenges amidst the organizational politics. In practice, we have to navigate a complex web to get what we want for us and for others. Efforts are building/rebuilding relationships can make the tightrope seem a little wider (or maybe not so high).
What are the real priorities here (or, at least, what should they be)?
Sticking with the “rope” metaphor (why abandon it now?), what happens when tightropes turn into tug-o-wars? Such situations tend to consume lots of effort, but provide disappointingly little in the form of results. Many of us are not in the position to impose our views on the organization, but we all can exert a degree of influence. Even when things are at cross-purposes, speaking truth to power can be scary. Is asking power for a small clarification any better?
The Lululemon stories coming out this week illustrate, if nothing else, that running a successful business is a complicated endeavour. There are a number of interests to balance, and something always has to give. Determining what exactly what should “give” and how exactly to implement that decision introduces an interplay between three dimensions of an organization:
Measures and Metrics
Rules and Norms
To have a serious look at “performance,” each of these is necessary though no one dimension logically prevails. The result of the interplay is very tangible to those operating in and around the environment. Employees actually live it, and investors, suppliers and other stakeholders are deeply affected by it.
From an organizational development perspective, these dimensions offer distinctly different lenses through which to analyze and evaluate performance. They can also inform opportunities for on-course corrections that can pre-empt a larger “realignment” or “change project.” Here is a quick explanation of what you could see through each lens.
Dimension #1 – Overall Direction (balancing inspiration with reality; clarity with rigidity)
There is alignment toward an overarching purpose.
We all know why we are here.
We have an obvious shared interest and our conflict is about how to get there not where to go.
Attachment to “core values” grows rigid such that an unrealistic zeal drives activity.
People are quick to become indignant when others suggest that we would ever compromise or question the direction that has been set.
There is talk of “sacred cows.”
Lack of consistent focus makes it hard for people to assign priority.
Lower levels of management feel compelled to check with upper levels.
Management shows reluctance to exercise judgement because decision-making criteria is unclear.
Dimension #2 – Measures and Metrics (balancing art and science; means and ends)
There are appropriate and trackable indicators of performance at individual, team and organizational levels.
Discussions around performance, including performance reviews, have some objective and tangible criteria.
With negative changes in measures and metrics, discussions turn to “what can we do to affect this outcome?”
Emphasis on “making the numbers” leads to situations akin to “the operation was a success, but the patient died.”
Rampant gaming of the system to make “my numbers,” with complete disregard for overall impact.
No concept of “taking one for the team” because there is no opportunity to provide a context or expectation of reciprocity.
There is no meaningful indication of results and outcomes.
Well-intentioned people often feel that although much gets done, little may have been accomplished.
There is little perceived connection to and control over end-results (positive or negative)
Dimension #3 – Rules and norms (balancing constraints with restrictions; formal with informal)
There are a few key parameters that people maintain (and don’t need to look at the website for guidance).
These are supported in formal policy (e.g. vision, mission and values).
There is a “spirit” of the rules not fully captured by the “letter” of the formal statements
Decision-making may be stifled because everything is prescribed and no judgment is required.
Rationale for doing something is often replaced with explanation of rules, guidelines and norms that prescribe behaviour (more “we/you can’t” than “why couldn’t we?”)
People look for air-cover from a policy or from “so-and-so said we have to do it this way” to justify actions/decisions.
The walls of the office have signs like: “DO NOT LEAVE FOOD IN THE OFFICE FRIDGE OVERNIGHT.“ & “DO NOT LET THIS DOOR SLAM.”
The funnel of “policies in progress” is always full.
Existing policies are routinely reworked to be clearer. (e.g. Coffee cream is exempt from “Food left in Fridge” policy.)
What now/what next?
An analysis of this nature has to sift through competing perceptions of the situation. If the goal is to improve performance, the first step should be to better understand it. The interplay of these dimensions is similar to the combination of individual life philosophy, personal goals, and code of conduct that form a human being. Some degree of misalignment is inevitable, but very often it is manageable. Large misalignments and inconsistencies will become obvious over time and become more difficult to manage and to hide.
Using these dimensions as a periodic diagnostic within an organization can bring insight to where to focus time and energy to proactively affect future performance. This can also help to prevent large crises that require swift and sudden change.