I heard an account of two friends who recently had a reunion. They had both once worked in the same discouraging, governmental bureaucracy. One now had a new job. He described a very positive organization culture and said, “I never knew you could have a job that is so fulfilling!” After some discussion a question arose, could there ever be a positive culture in a government context? The first conclusion was negative. A third person interrupted and argued that it was possible to create a positive culture in any organization.
Who is right?
Both conclusions seem sound. An examination of most government bureaucracies will provide evidence of negative culture. They appear doomed to gloom.
Yet engagement surveys in the federal government show that agencies and units within agencies vary greatly. Some have much more positive cultures than others. The same pattern holds in the private sector, units within the same company vary widely.
In the darkest organizations I have found positive units. These units are important. They are evidence that positive organizing is possible. I encourage people to search out, identify and examine the most positive units in their organization. Those units demonstrate a key principle. “If it is real it is possible.”
If you are trying to create a positive culture, you have to get your people to believe that it is possible. Talking to them does not create belief. Exposing them to a positive unit in their own agency or corporation exposes them to the reality of possibility. It challenges their skepticism and opens the door to hope.
- What is the most positive unit in your company or agency?
- How could this asset be put to greater use?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?