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Culture Anti-patternsλ︎

Most anti-patterns stem from attempts to control or dictate actions of people within the organisation.

Cultural adoption and effectiveness comes from collaboration and deep feeling of inclusion in defining the organisational culture.

Initial draft - feedback welcome

Perk Cultureλ︎

Introducing perks like video game consoles, pool tables, etc can provide some basic interaction for people in the organisation.

Perks are separate from the work that people are doing so serve as a distraction to help people wind-down.

Howerver, perks alone are very limited as they are not connected to the work and not really part of an effective culture.

Perks can also be a source of division and conflict, especially when they are made overly competitive or not equally accessible.

Imposed Cultureλ︎

Top-down cultural ideas may start a conversation within an organisation about the culture they value.

Top-down cultural decrees impose specific cultural aspects that are often rejected or ignored by the organisation because they are not relevant to individual people within the organisation.

Imposing a culture will stifle the adoption of cultural ideas and turn people away from discussing cultural aspects that are relevant.

Homogenious cultureλ︎

Cultural homogenization is the reduction in cultural diversity through popularization of customs, ideas and values.

When culture is the same then everyone must act the same, leaving no room for cultural growth.

As an organisation grows it may try too hard to maintain a particular culture, to the exclusion and detrement of other cultural ideas. This can go as far as new hires being a carbon copy of existing people, which can stifle innovation and limit resilience to change.


Cultural homogenization is a central aspect of a global culture.

Homogenization can breakdown cultural barriers and yet force the global adoption of a single culture, removing different identities and culture to form a mono-culture.

David E. O'Connor defines cultural homogenization as "the process by which local cultures are transformed or absorbed by a dominant outside culture".

Globalisation is used in the context of Western culture dominating and destroying other cultures. However, cultural homogenization is not one-way and involves many cultures mixing with people adopting various elements from other cultures.

Blame Cultureλ︎

When people resourt to blaming others for failure, this is a blame culture.

Blame becomes systemic within the organisation and it becomes easier to pass the failure off as someone elses fault.

Managers may blame the people they are responsible for when

  • the manager does not properly understand the type or amount of work involved for the people they manage
  • poorly support those people to carry out realistic amount of work
  • micro-manage people
  • assiging conflicting priorities without any sense of value
  • just get it done approach
  • separate from the day to day work

Its Not A Blame Culture

Managers and staff start saying "this isnt a blame culture" when the organisation has alread decended into blame culture.

When an organisation is truely not a blame culture, then there should not be a need for anyone to say, "this isnt a blame culture"

individual blameλ︎

When mistakes do occur then it is far too simple to blame the individual that was the trigger (e.g. the person who deleted a database table in production)

When discussing individuals involved in mistakes, it should always be framed as the action that was at fault and not the person carrying out that action.

The system a person was able to make a mistake in was the actual root cause of the issue.

The events that lead up to the mistake happening should be reviewed as part of a root cause analysis. This should include technical, process and cultural aspects as potential influencers of the mistake.

A Culture change that isntλ︎

Change that doesnt actually change anything, but often has new words for things instead.

An insurance company realised they were drastically loosing out against their competition, dropping from a strong 1st to a weak 6th (out of 6) in the last year.

The Prince2 process was percieved as one of the constraints to success for the company, so they scheduled a two day workshop to devise a more effective process that worked for all

Whist there were representatives from across the company, the workshop predominantly consisted of project managers (most of their projects were blocked or being implemented by engineering teams)

The workshop was structured and facilitated and many great ideas were discussed and presented.

By the end of the workshop a new process had been created, which when looked at with dispationate eyes was mostly Prince2 with a few nods to agile terms. So infact nothing had actually changed, except for introducing a new name.

I asked one of the main internal stakeholders (in charge of overall direction) what was the unique selling point of the company. This question seems to catch the stakeholder off-guard, even though I had assumed it should be forefront in peoples minds.

Eventually the stakeholder said: "Its just insurance, there isnt any difference"

It was a few days after that revelation I started planning on an exit strategy from the company. Six months later, I had left and out of the original 164 people in the IT department, only 9 people remained. The company had been aquired by stakeholders who knew what they valued, selling off much of the company they did not value.

Macheaveleon Culture

A focus on gaining individual power through manipulation and control, with the precept that it is for the greater prosperity of those being controlled.

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