Flourishing Culture

Saying It Doesn’t Make It So

August 9, 2018

I was listening to an interview on NPR with Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education under Obama. He is out on the speaking tour promoting his new memoir. The first line from his book reads, “Education runs on lies.” He offered explanations for this provocative statement. For instance, we say children count but we don’t make sure every child in this country gets equal access to a good education. We say teachers are important but we don’t pay them what they deserve for the hard work they do. In listening to him, I was thinking this kind of behavior is pretty much what I see in organizations. It’s easy for a company to say: “We believe our people are our most important asset”; or “We are honest and straightforward with each other.” Yet, if you speak to employees, you hear countless examples of how frequently the organization misses the mark in actualizing what they articulate. Unlike Mr. Duncan, I don’t call these disconnects “lies.” Rather, I believe organizations don't do culture work, diving deep into what's really going on and what's truly motivating their behaviors. Doing this hard work gives organizational leaders the data they need so they can make more informed choices — ones that are truly aligned with what they espouse. 

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