To share best OD practices, trends and policies in the government through monthly virtual meetings both internal and external consultants -life long learners in the field contributing to the future growth and knowledge of government and public OD
Culture Change in Government
November 18, 2009 at 6:18 pm #85730
Great and lively conversation today (11/18) re: Gen-Yer’s in the Workplace. Thanks Scott for sharing your perspectives, and of course to Sunny Hester at DHHS for bringing us together as part of the monthly CBODN Government SIG agenda.
I’d like to share a few thoughts, a few of which I began to verbalize on the call. While the Gen-Y tendencies were interesting, we quickly moved into issues of trust, relationship and forces that shape culture. I think those are the right issues underlying the generational debates.
Ultimately, it seems organizational culture and culture change must become the primary focus .. but let’s stay on the generational theme for a bit .. as it may help shed some important light.
Several things I heard today in the context of –
– having enough experience
– being afraid of (or getting in trouble for) asking for resources
– being deferential to the ‘boss’
– need for ‘paying your dues’
seem to have less to do with Gen-Y vs. Gen-X vs. Boomers specifically (an observation shared by many), but rather, I think these are symptoms of a culture clash. I think they also signal changes that may be in progress.
The old culture is silo-based, built on hierarchies, values loyalty and experience, and is aligned with standardization and control. This was fostered by the industrial revolution and the ‘factory model’ of organization design. Boomers grew up in this model, and know it well. And frankly its not a bad model, especially when the goal is producing an integrated, standard, engineered result. (Note: It’s easy to call it the ‘military model’ but I have been challenged on that line of thinking, and now agree; the DoD has become quite expert at collaborating and gaining intelligence ‘from below’ .. but that’s another thread.)
The new culture is relationship-based, built on networks, values engagement and exchange of information, and is much more fluid in nature. Milennials are growing up in this, and will not only shape this model but insist upon it.
Gen-Y’ers (and maybe even Gen-X’ers, like me) are stuck in the middle –
This is an important discussion. I’d love to keep it going. To me, the focus here can effectively be framed as “old culture” vs. “new culture”. That’s an over simplification, to be sure. But we must be candid on the scale of the issues. Is the paradigm of the “large organization” shifting? What do you think?
November 21, 2009 at 7:09 pm #85738
Thanks for the feedback and ongoing dialogue. A few things struck me in your entry. As I mentioned on the call, regardless of what generation a person is from (I agree) trust is the foundation for any solid relationship both professional and personal. However, different generations have different views and ideas on what trust means to them and how to earn it and keep it. How were these views shaped? By culture.
I couldn’t agree more that at the root of generational differences lies cultural differences, of course, as after all the various generations were raised with different cultural forces both in society and organizations. Dialogue and communication around these cultural differences is key to successfully bridging the generational barriers in the workplace. I do not however see an “old culture” vs a “new culture” in such black and white terms, I see many unique cultures trying to coexist, which makes naming the differences and finding the similarities all that much harder.
I would also be curious in more discussion around the “Military Model.” In my experience, and that of some cross generational colleagues, DoD is still seen to be one of the most rigid and hierarchical cultures that truly fits the stereotype of “pay your dues.” Collaboration and seeking intelligence from below are far from the norm.
Gen – Yers are stuck in the middle; however the majority are (like the Milennials) prone to a culture relationship-based, built on networks, values engagement and exchanges of information. In a way, Gen Y also insists upon these things as well.
December 17, 2009 at 11:07 pm #85736
Eric R. PayneParticipant
DoD Pentagon (aka staff ) is still hierarchical.
DoD Operations (aka boots on the ground) is very much a model for collaboration.
February 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm #85734
Great feedback guys, thanks.
Eric – agree w/ your assessment, DoD, like all organizations, is truly a hybrid – with top down silos at the Pentagon and more the collaborative style for field operations. That’s why the “military” model is not the best name to use.
Scott – taking the hybrid point further, you are right, multiple cultural forces are in effect. Here’s my research thread on it, so far, looking at the dimensions of culture, per Edgar Schein. People view the world through the lens of their upbringing, so its no wonder that generational divides align with prevailing views of the time. No, its not fair to stereotype individual behaviors completely by generation, but as a trend, the tendencies seem pretty clear.
I make the crisp, ‘black and white’ distinction because the “command and control” culture has become such a dominant force in western society, compounded by so many diverse drivers (risk management, Wall Street, business schools, etc.), that it has taken over our view of what an organization should be. Even non-profits, many if not most focused on social innovation, have adapted to similar bureaucratic and turf-oriented dynamics.
I have several posts remaining in my exploratory series on organization culture, mentioned above. Would appreciate comments, here or there.
I also hope to shed new light on the nuances of Culture in Government, including a 1-hour workshop on 3/24 as part of the CBODN Government SIG’s monthly program calendar.
Culture affects so much of “what gets done” in Government. I hope you’ll join in the discussion.
July 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm #85732
Unfortunately, this is not just a culture issue, but to your point, is largely influenced by the inherent bureaucratic structure of the Federal government. Further, when it comes to culture, it really boils down to the shared values and beliefs that are held across the government, and what values, believes AND behaviors are reinforced due to the structure, as well as enabling systems and practices, such as performance management, rewards and recognition systems, etc.
Given the dynamic nature of our increasingly global society and economy, a hierarchical, command and control type of organization cannot possibly be responsive enough to deal with the onslaught of problems facing us today. The issue in the Gulf is a PRIME example of this. So, the culture question comes down to what does the government value and what practices does it promote and encourage (i.e., through incentives) AND what structure (formal or informal) and systems best allow agencies to put those values and beliefs into practice. For the government to move ahead, it must get to the foundation — in what do we believe and what is the strategy for making it happen (value alignment, structure, systems that encourage and reinforce desired behaviors). When that happens — the culture will come along with it.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.