The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Shifting culture to the virtual

Working remotely just happens. For a lot of us, it is a long stream of virtual meetings.

Not all of which are effective. One could assume, that this is normal as this also regularly happens with in-person meetings.

But there is more to it. And it’s not only the medium. Another element is the organizational culture.

Edgar H. Schein defines organizational culture as “the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered, or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, and that have worked well enough to be considered valid, and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”

In essence, culture is the result of how members of the organization learned to handle problems. May these problems have been opportunities or challenges. They have led to a positive approach to the problems or if they’ve felt threatening the approach was driven by anxiety and the idea to avoid the problem.

The learning resulted in ways to deal with the situation that seemed to be good practice and developed into habits that were then taught to others. They become practices which are not questioned anymore. Often they even move out of awareness.

Transitioning to the virtual space is learning to deal with a new environment. One in which our habitual cues are missing. One that offers other communication options people are learning to use. And one that transforms how comfortable people feel in meetings.

It’s a very different context from the one in which the existing organizational culture emerged. A context in which some of the existing habits might not even be reproducible.

Sometimes it’s the subtle cues like waiting for a reaction from their internal leader the team learned to read in his body language. But it can be more profound habits like the ones a team leader developed to come to a conclusion before the meetings through short exchanges here and there.

This adds to the challenge of organizing virtual meetings. It means to become aware of one’s culture and habits. Are they responsible for the growing amount of meetings? Are they leading to exclusion of those less responsive remotely? And how are they impacting the virtual meeting themselves?





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