“Words Create Worlds”

I’m reminded of a story from my school days, told during an English lesson. The story serves to remind us of the ambiguity of language and the need to look beyond the words to ensure shared understanding on any communication and conversation. The short version goes like this: A while ago, a train struck a car at a rail crossing in Yorkshire. Fortunately the car driver and passengers escaped with minor injuries. When interviewed, the driver said “I was obeying the sign, it says do not cross while lights are flashing”. Unfortunately in the local dialect, “while” means something like “until”, as in “I won’t see you again while Thursday”.

If strategy is the patterns in your decisions, culture is patterns in your collective behaviors (and language, artifacts, symbols, habits, practices, formal and informal structures, systems etc). Culture isn’t a good or bad thing, and serves us well… until it doesn’t. If culture eats strategy for breakfast, it’s clearly imperative to align culture with strategy in order to unleash your potential.