Participants will engage in an exercise to examine four negative cultural norms at the organization and four positive replacements. They will be asked to explore how they feel in the midst of each one and to commit to adopt the positive cultural behaviors.
- 8 sheets of posterboard
- Thick marker
- Masking tape (1 roll)
- Printouts (1 per participant) of the following two documents. Both documents can be found on the http://www.teachingthem.com website on the Lesson and Material Downloads page..
- EXERICSE – Counter-Culture – Problems and Solutions.docx
- EXERCISE – Counter Culture – Wide Range of Emotions.pptx
- Print copies of the two documents for all participants.
- Tape a very large circle with masking tape in the middle of the open floor of the teaching area. It should be large enough so everyone will be able to stand in the circle together.
- Create eight large signs on posterboard by labeling each one with a different cultural element from the list below:
- Silo Mentality
- Polishing Our Rough Edges
- Trusting Others
- Being Vulnerable & Transparent
- Ruthless Prioritization
- Ask 8 volunteers to each take one posterboard and line up along two different walls – the four positive cultural elements (Trusting Others, Collaboration, Being Vulnerable & Transparent and Ruthless Prioritization) on one wall and the four negative cultural elements (Distrust, Silo Mentality, Polishing Our Rough Edges, Over-commitment) on the opposite wall.
- Pass out the two pages (“Problems and Solutions” and “Wide Range of Emotion”) to every participant.
- Invite each participant to join in one of eight little groups, aligned behind participants holding up eight large placards.
- Instruct participants to move around into other groups until there are about the same numbers of participants standing with each placard. (NOTE: This exercise will work even if there is only one person in each small group – the one holding the placard – but will also work with 100 people.)
- Ask the group behind the “Distrust” sign to read together and aloud the description of “Distrust.”
- After that reading, call upon anyone in the room to call out the feelings/emotions that they experience when they encounter this cultural problem in their organization. (Remind the participants to look at the graphical list of Feelings in their hands to help them identify any feelings they experience.)
- After this, have the group behind the corresponding counter-cultural placard (“Trusting Others” in this case) read aloud and together the description of “Trusting Others.”
- Then have both groups dealing with the Distrust/Trusting Others issue walk into the large circle in the middle of the room, holding their signs high so everyone can see them.
- When those participants are in the circle in the middle of the room, the facilitator calls upon anyone in the room to call out the feelings/emotions that come to mind when they imagine this powerful counterculture of “Trusting Others” becoming a reality throughout their organization.
- On the count of three, have everyone in the room say aloud and together “We release Distrust” and the person holding that placard goes outside of the circle and lays that placard down on the ground. (The placard “Trusting Others” remains held aloft in the circle.)
- After this, the same overall process is repeated for the remaining cultural problems and counter-cultural behaviors.
- When this is completed, invite someone to pray in a short time of conversation prayer.
Source – Greg Boyer and Michael Kientz
Cultural Problems and Their Counter-Cultural Solutions
Some of our cultural problems in our organization are:
1. Distrust – Managers don’t trust staff enough to delegate to them. Staff don’t trust their managers enough to give them honest feedback. Senior leaders don’t trust staff enough to share information. As a result, work takes longer to complete, misunderstandings abound, and, gossip and rumor often replace formal communication channels.
2. Silo Mentality – Staff are focused on doing the best job they can, but they don’t talk to their peers doing the same roles. As a result, they reinvent the wheel on a regular basis or suffer silently, not knowing how to solve problems that someone else has already solved.
3. Polishing Our Rough Edges – In a desire to look “Excellent” (which translates to “Perfect” in our culture), staff misrepresent the situation to make it look like things are better than they are. Staff overstate their strengths, skills and contributions. Field Offices put on a show for visiting leaders. Leaders do whatever it takes to ensure they get “green KRIs” (a proxy for all kinds of visible measurements) even when it requires enormous sacrifice from their staff. As a result, leaders and senior leaders don’t have a true picture of the condition of the ministry, resources aren’t allocated correctly, and problems are prolonged.
4. Over-commitment – Senior leadership regularly takes bigger bites than the staff can chew. Because we don’t know what’s most important, everything looks important, and we feel that we have to do everything. At the heart of this behavior is a pride that makes us feel like our efforts are essential to the success of the ministry and a lack of faith in God’s provision to bring about positive outcomes. As a result, staff are exhausted, burnout and turnover are common, relationships are strained, our infrastructure is stressed, and staff lose confidence in their leaders as we regularly invest fully in initiatives that have little to no impact.
Counter-cultural corrective attitudes and behaviors are:
1. Trusting Others – Every worker at every level commits to being trustworthy by honoring commitments, being transparent, communicating frequently and strategically, and dealing with conflict in a biblical way. Leaders take risks to share information and delegate to give opportunities for workers to earn their trust.
2. Collaboration – When people encounter a problem that they aren’t sure how to solve or initiate a project, their first thought and action is to contact their peers and find out what’s been done already. Workers regularly spend 25% or more of their time collaborating with other staff both inside and outside their office.
3. Being Vulnerable & Transparent – Everyone commits to giving an honest and realistic picture of what the current state is. Leaders and workers ask for help when they need it. Leaders honor this risk by not punishing staff for admitting mistakes or asking for help. Everyone allows their rough edges to show so that God can use them to connect us to each other (like a jigsaw puzzle).
4. Ruthless Prioritization – Senior leadership identifies a few anchors that all workers can use to make decisions about which activities get done and which ones detract us from our main focus (even if they look good and important). Senior leaders require other leaders to justify initiatives by matching them to the anchors and hold themselves accountable to say “no” more often than they say “yes” to new initiatives. The organization regularly assesses workers’ capacity and work-life balance and makes adjustments to protect the well-being of the staff.