Charting how organisational culture fails

I’m running a workshop next week around the CAIR Model of pressure on organisational culture: it’s an exploration of how cultures fail because of internal pressures. Essentially it’s a friction between our core values and the cost of membership of a community. Measured across four Dimensions, this is different for everyone, but the net outcome is that some aspects of culture fail to live up to expectations and become tolerant of failure.

The route to failure of culture

The CAIR Model charts the pressures that build within a culture, to the point where rifts in trust emerge

Culture is co-created and co-owned: what we do in the moment counts. This is a step away from the belief held by many organisations that their culture resides in their history and architecture, in the glass, steel and websites. These things are important, but they are the canvas upon which culture is co-created by people through their actions every day. In cultures that fail, some people make poor decisions, others stand by and watch. Few people set out to do things badly: but many cultures fail. CAIR explores this space.

The CAIR Model of pressure on culture

Culture is co-created and co-owned by the community. Whilst it may be framed by regulated and organisation, it’s not imposed. The CAIR model seeks to understand the (often conflicting) pressures that lead to exhibited behaviours and is based on a belief that through understanding them we can build a stronger learning culture to counter the corrosion.

There is a COST of membership within a community. Unless we de-select ourselves, or are deselected by the organisation, and leave, we simply compromise some aspects of our values and beliefs in return for the benefits of membership. For example, if you worked for a retailer that started selling somewhat short skirts for children, ones that mirrored what Beyonce wears in a video, would you speak up? Is that right or wrong? Would you let it slide because it’s not really that bad? Most of us would, up to a point. That’s where the pressure builds.

We ASPIRE to be something: we want to be good people, so what is the relationship between the person we want to be and the person we are? If your organisation makes cigarettes, does it make you a bad person to work there? If a bank makes a huge profit, is that bad? Are you proud to tell your friends you work at a bank, or do you keep a bit quiet at parties? We INVEST our reputations and time in organisations. We expect REWARDS. There’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to be rewarded with a big bonus: but other people seek different rewards. How does pressure build between them? If someone makes a lot of money for a bank, but is a bit of a bully, how far is it allowed to slide? How about if only a small percentage of senior managers are women? Is there a cost of not speaking out about it?

CAIR is not about measuring the big and obvious failures: it’s based on a belief that the small tensions, cumulatively, lead to cultures that have gaps, and into these gaps fall trust. When we have rifts in trust, between individuals or sub cultures, and the wider community, the culture can fail.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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