Auditing the Culture LO17452

Richard C. Holloway (
Wed, 18 Mar 1998 06:33:51 -0800

Lately I've been musing over the implicit and tacit symbols of culture
that occur in each organization. The decor and magazines in the waiting
room; the Dilbert cartoons and other "wall hangings" in the cubicles; the
manner in which people speak or communicate to one another; methods for
keeping track of people's time--when I literally stumbled over a wonderful
book of poetry by Gail Tremblay, called Indian Singing in the 20th
Century. As I opened this small volume to peruse it, I read the title
poem (of which I'll share a portion with you) that resonated so clearly
with my musings:

Earth breath eddies between factories
and office buildings, caresses the surface
of our skin; we go to jobs, the boss
always watching the clock to see
that we're on time. He tries to shut
out magic and hopes we'll make
mistakes or disappear. We work
fast and steady and remember
each breath alters the composition
of the air. Change moves relentless,
the pattern unfolding despite their planning--

This reminded me that the organizational culture is so often at odds with
the culture of the people who come to the organization. This thought was
very critical to my thinking, because it focuses on a dilemma. There are
community cultural characteristics that simply don't fit into an
organization. I'm thinking primarily of such characteristics as abuse,
violence, addiction, tolerance for incompetency and denial of individual
responsibility and accountability. These don't fit well into a community
either--but the people who exhibit these and similar characteristics (at
one time or another) still live in the community. Organizations must
inculcate an culture which can be superimposed over these kinds of
behavior--so that safety, quality and individual
responsibility/accountability are expected standards for being retained in
the organization.

At the same time, organizations should reflect the cultural mores, the
values, of the people who comprise them. They can't afford to "shut out
the magic." So, do any of you have methods for honoring and integrating
community values into the organization, while maintaining an specific and
unique organizational cultural integrity? How do we best audit the
organizational culture--and look for "the magic" that might be shut out?
How do we best inculcate and integrate organizational and community
culture? I am fully aware that these questions spin off of my own
assumptions. I also realize that the larger an organization becomes, the
more difficult it becomes to reflect and absorb the variety of communities
in which they interact.

walk in peace,


(And, for those of you who are interested--I see that this book is still
available and in print {alt.books has it listed for under $8}. The ISBN
is 0934971137.)

"What we say is important  .  .  .  for in most cases the mouth speaks
what the heart is full of." ^W Jim Beggs

Thresholds--developing critical skills for living organizations Richard C. "Doc" Holloway Please visit our new website, still at <> <>

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