132 — To Understand Behavior, Look At the Situation — The Culture

A person’s behavior is information about the person’s situation. Culture is the situation. To understand culture, look at what people do. To understand behavior, look at the culture.

When something goes wrong:

      • Don’t focus on the person as if they are the problem.
      • Don’t look at the problem as if it is an independent event.
      • Do look at the situation that led to the problem.

 

“There is no event in a vacuum.” Most problems come from the system. Most system problems come from poor decisions, resulting from poor relationships and communications. These are cultural issues, which is why the culture is always part of any problem, often the root cause.

Culture Is the Context for Human Actions

What people do comes from who they are and the situation they are in — a person in a culture. People in any culture behave similarly because they have a shared sense of what is appropriate. At work, our national culture combined with the local company culture, tells us what is appropriate. Anthropologists have long known that culture is the context that explains human actions.

1-situation behavior

Personality plays a role in what happens, but as a manager you cannot change someone’s personality — and you probably should not try. The situation or company culture is the most important part to look at for two reasons:

  1. The culture is the part leaders can manage.
  2. Managing the culture has great leverage. Developing the culture lifts the whole ship, not one part — it is a very efficient allocation of management time.

cc 132 © Barry Phegan, Ph.D.

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Posted in: About Company Culture — Person and Behavior

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