UIEtips: Meetings – The Canary in the Culture Coal Mine

Jared Spool

October 16th, 2013

Kevin Hoffman’s most recent writing suggests the culture of a group or a project team plays a significant role in what is and is not possible. Kevin also says that understanding or changing any aspect of a culture requires immense focused effort and luck. In this exclusive article for UIEtips by Kevin Hoffman, Kevin focuses on both culture mapping and the simple feedback loop as essential tools for quickly understanding the culture of a group or a project team.

In less than one week, Kevin will lead a full-day workshop at the User Interface 18 Conference in Boston. His workshop, Leading Super Productive Meetings will show you how to develop empathy, trust, and collaboration in order to run effective design discussions. Plus, you’ll learn all about the visual listening and “who-do” frameworks to better understand and communicate with your teams — and manage conflict, too. Learn more about Kevin’s workshop.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Understanding the effects of an organization’s culture on its processes and outcomes can be challenging. The culture of a group or a project team is like water to fish: it is invisible yet everywhere, and it defines what is and is not possible to accomplish. Understanding or changing any aspect of a culture requires immense focused effort and luck.

Equally fascinating is the fact that organizations actually have two cultures. Their espoused culture is the one they claim to have, and the one which is promoted to customers and employees. They also have an actual culture, which governs how things truly go down and may contradict the former. For example, nearly all design firms speak of having a highly democratic, hands-on culture. However there are some decisions made in the style a dictatorship: people’s salaries, clients, even the selection of desks and equipment. It isn’t efficient or fun to get a group of twenty five people to collaborate on selecting a printer. When looking at troubled teams and companies it isn’t difficult to find stark contrast between their advertised and actual cultures. As a result of that culture contrast people feel disenfranchised, teams are less effective, and goals aren’t met.

Read the article: Meetings – The Canary in the Culture Coal Mine

How has culture affected your meetings? Tell us about it below.

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