Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Culture of Wisdom

In this time of economic stagnation and uncertainty, it is of utmost importance that organizations of all types (even if you think you are the type that doesn't need to) need to start the conversation about value: Are we offering value? Do our customers perceive what we do as value-added? Critical to survival in economically stressed times will be to offer value, convenience, and efficiency. Internally, effective and efficient management will be of supreme importance as organizations will have to do more with less for potentially a long time.

A good way to enter this conversation is to start to talk about what it means to develop a culture of wisdom. A culture of wisdom has three key ingredients:

shared knowledge (arrived at by the discipline of reflection)
shared ethics
a valiant sense of responsibility to self, to peers, to organization's mission.

A wise culture leverages the knowledge of each individual to create shared organizational knowledge. In addition, a wise culture actively creates new knowledge of various forms. They learn, learn, learn all the time in order to increase their knowledge, their efficiencies, and their effectiveness.

A wise culture is driven by shared ethics of what it means to work effectively with the other members of the organization. In a school, this would include working effectively with peers, administrators, students, parents, and community partners.

The shared ethics would also extend to the commitment that each individual makes to learning to improve their contribution to the whole effort on a daily basis. Learning and improving and sharing with others becomes a deep personal responsibility. Thus, everyone is a leader in a wise culture as each strives to model optimal learning and sharing habits and behaviors.

In managing or guiding a wise culture, management should focus on creating the future by growing the systems and individuals of the organization to make that future a reality. Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco, says, "management's job is to teach, teach, teach." He says, "Management's goal in teaching is to grow the future of Costco."

Jim Sinegal's belief about planning:

You have to schedule it. You have to plan the opportunity to think about your business and plan what you're going to do. Otherwise you're just a hamster running on a treadmill; you're never going to get anywhere. You've got to schedule it. Strategic planning is an important part of running any business and the more so for businesses that operating in multiple states and countries.

A big part of that planning, which is an often and ongoing thing, not a twice a decade thing, is to plan the learning that you are going to infuse your culture with so as to create a culture of wisdom.

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