A rainbow of honesty: how to use symbols to change culture


Posted by Carolyn Taylor - 08 November, 2010

Ford Motors 
Here is an interview with the CEO of Ford, Alan Mulally.

It's good all the way through, but especially from minutes 12'-16'30".  He tells a great story of a highly visible moment where he found a way to use the traffic light system to get his people to know that covering up poor performance is a worse sin that the results themselves. You get to hear how quick it can be to change a cultural norm with the right leadership behaviour.

Remember that culture is the patterns of behaviour that is encouraged over time.  At Ford, the pattern of behaviour that had been encouraged was to "look good" and make out that everything was fine.  So everyone presents their own area as doing fine, even though the culture was loosing $17bn.  To build an Achievement culture, transparency is the first step - you cannot improve if you cannot acknowledge where there are problems.

When a leader gets really clear on the behaviour he or she is looking for, encouraging this behaviour at every opportunity - and discouraging the opposite, sends the message very fast.  Every time unwanted behaviour is ignored, the message is received that it is actually OK.  This is what it means to "walk your talk".

Thank you to our client Christine Boulton, champion of the culture journey in the Water Corporation, Western Australia, for sending me through this link.



Carolyn is the CEO of Walking the Talk and author of 'Walking the Talk: Building a Culture for Success' (Random House).
Twitter @walkingourtalk or LinkedIn.



Topics: Videos, Achievement, Behaviour, Symbols, Systems

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