Still Predicting the Future

Extract from “In Search of The Tipping Point” (Yet to be published)

“Humans are tribal animals, we are hard wired to fit in with our tribe. We read the signals about what it takes to fit in and we adapt our behaviour accordingly. This is a survival strategy. If we cannot do this we either leave the tribe or the tribe ejects us. As we adapt to fit in with our new tribe, we in turn reinforce these tribal norms and accepted behaviours and thus reinforce the culture.”  (Taylor, ‘Walk the Talk’)

‘How did I get here?” (A contestant on the TV show,‘ Biggest Loser’ lamenting on how they now find themselves obese. They know the answer and it is also a metaphor for culture). 

A few years ago when I was coaching my sons team a parent came up to me at the Presentation night with a good opening line,

“I can see things before they happen.”

“Sorry?”

“I can see the future,” he continued.

“That’s a good skill.”

“Yes it is,” he replied.

“In fact, that is a gift. There is a spot for you in AFL with your ability.”

A friend of mine was walking past so I grabbed him,”Rob, you should hear this.” Then I left the parent with Rob looking over the psychic parent’s shoulder at me with the identical expression that was on George Costanza’s face when Jerry would leave him trapped with someone at a party while he scampered off.

I am pretty certain one of the reasons I was employed by PAFC was because I have the same skill (not a gift) as the soothsaying parent- I can reasonably accurately predict where an organisation will be in three years. Why I am so confident in my (and your) ability to predict the future is that once we understand our present culture and what is driving it and how we got here, it is a relatively simple step to predict where we will be in three years. In fact it is embarrassingly simple with organisations which take their present way of doing things then flop them on to a track to run into the future (and then wonder why the past keeps duplicating itself).#

 

We are where we are right now culturally because of the decisions we made or didn’t make three years ago, the behaviours we ignored or rewarded in the past, the standards we accepted, the broken player curfews we laughed off ,the leadership styles we used and encouraged or the bullying we turned a blind eye to, the issues we didn’t address openly and honestly, the list management decisions we didn’t make(or did) and so on. We are where we are today because of what happened yesterday. It is obvious when you think about it. We will be where we are tomorrow because of decisions we make or don’t make today.

So for us (at PAFC) the fourth pillar to get in place was our cultural blueprint that would guarantee us success both on and off field into the forseeable future.*

Culture is essentially how you are expected to act and behave if you want to fit in and be successful, it is ‘how we do things around here’. PAFC like most AFL clubs measure our culture using the OCI survey tool which assesses the club along a range of criteria and, short version, measures the extent to which:

1. People within the club are expected to ‘go along to get along’, be liked by everyone, avoid dealing with issues directly, stay under the radar and never challenge superiors, that is ,the extent you are expected to be passive.

2. The extent to which people are expected to be on the attack, use their position to get what they want, criticise and find fault in others, be seen as a ‘winner’, compete rather than co-operate and be depressed when the team is not winning, that is the extent you are expected to be aggressive.

3.The extent to which you expected to pursue excellence, plan well, want feedback, are growing and developing, be a team player, coach and support others and have empathy and good interpersonal skills, that is be constructive.

The results are benchmarked against the results of 1000s of other organisations and a report highlighting your strengths and ‘developmental opportunities’ is produced which we presented to the playing group and then again to the LG in more detail.

PAFC’s culture is remarkably constructive. In terms of constructive behaviour generally we would rank in the top 30% of the thousands of organisations in the world measured with the Culture measurement tool. What was an issue was that while we were very high on the people side we need to ramp up the feedback processes and the level of excellence we accept.

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