A resilient culture might best be described with an analogy of personal grit. I grew up in a working-class family, in later years I would learn that we were what most called poor. Poor is only a perspective, because what we lacked in personal possessions we made up for in family time, learning to enjoy each other’s company and appreciating the small things in life. My parents saved to ensure we had some of the toys the other kids had but it was a choice between school clothes or Nintendo. We never minded because we didn’t know we were poor until we went to school and got to see how other people lived.
I learned the concept of work ethic from my parents as we always had a garden, cattle, and raised tobacco, to help supplement the income. In addition to the agriculture chores, my dad would buy and flip repairable, wrecked cars at a profit, after working an 8 to12-hour shift at the coal mine. Did I mention that he drove over an hour each way to work? He did this so that his sons wouldn’t grow up in the poverty ridden area of eastern Kentucky which had a history of perpetuating a poverty cycle for the families that lived in the area. He did not want his family to see poverty as the only way of life and to condition our thinking that there wasn’t more to life than coal mines and hillbilly, outlaw activities like bootlegging and growing marijuana. Yes, I said hillbilly outlaw don’t be so surprised, the inner city is not the only place in the world with a poverty cycle that conditions bad choices. My father worked his ass off and hustled to provide a life and opportunity for his family to break the cycle of poverty of eastern Kentucky.
I worked on the farm and on whatever chores my family told me to do as long as I can remember. However, I took my first job outside the family at age 15 as a cook and bus boy at a local restaurant. This is not to say my chores at home were relieved. Oh no, no. If I wanted to continue to play football I had to pay for my gas, my truck, and continue to perform my regular chores at home as my dad did not have kids to continue cutting his own grass, he reproduced his lawn mowers with great pride. I would go to football practice, help raise tobacco, tend the garden, clean wrecked cars, and worked at the restaurant, if I wanted to have fun I had to pay to play. Needless to say, my father taught me how to hustle at an early age and it stayed with me my entire career.
I will not bore you with all of the details of my career in this blog but to keep it simple, I have won some and I have lost some along the way. I have been booming and bust. I have been a self-made business owner, a contractor, and a corporate director. I have worked hard my entire career and learned the art of the hustle from an early age. I learned that nothing comes easy and nobody will hand it to you as you must work hard and go take it. The words, I can’t, or I won’t, are not in my vocabulary. I learned, and I lived the word grit. I learned it from my parents and my family. I lived what it means to be resilient. I anticipated, I monitored, I responded, and I learned from poverty to prosperity.
A resilient culture is a culture of grit. It is agile, able to flex and flow, with the changes in environment and market to take advantage of risk and opportunity. A resilient culture can anticipate negative risk and error likely situations, observe deviations from the plan, respond to correct the unanticipated drift and learn to better anticipate the next time. A resilient culture is self aware and plans for its weaknesses to best execute with its strengths. A people in a resilient culture embody the same characteristics as the social management system in which they work.
A resilient culture makes it possible for the management systems, social systems, and tools to shape an organization.
Trust Culture is created with a spoken and written contract between employee and management that establishes how management wants to be held accountable by the people that work for them and the employees are held accountable to only things within their control. It is a trust relationship that establishes the expectation for good work, open communication, and fairness.
A Reporting Culture comes once trust is established. Employees commit to report the issues in the tools, systems, processes, and social systems, to the management team. The management team commits to evaluate, fix, and communicate their decisions to address the gaps in the management system and create the best organization possible that designs around the weaknesses of the human and for the strengths of the people on the team.
A Learning Culture investigates and evaluates incidents fairly with causal factor analysis, communicates improvements and risk information to allow people the best opportunity for success. The organization commits to systems and individual learning to anticipate risks, monitor for deviations, respond to drift from the plan, and learn from the implementation of the plan for optimization.
All of this is completed with tools, systems, processes, communication, and social systems, to create a resilient culture. When this process is performed by a group of people who buy into the process from the top down, then the organization and the people that make up the organization, action like a resilient organism, taking advantage or risks and opportunities in its environment. It acts like an organism with grit.
So, to sum up this conversation. An organization that displays the flexibility and grit to survive in any environment with people dedicated to the same goal then a resilient organization is born. It takes work to create and maintain but the sky is the limit once it is rolling.
If you or the organization aren’t resilient or performing like it should then maybe you need to think outside your norm and figure out how to create grit. I don’t think you will regret it.