Monday, September 18, 2017

"...everybody knows it is impossible to change culture." NOT!

You might be at a party, minding your own business when you overhear a conversation.  Somebody pontificates, often with a heavy sigh, "...and of course it is impossible to change the culture."

Let's take a minute to dissect this myth.

It is the resources, stupid
Would people continue to buy lottery tickets if the lottery commission announced "We will no longer pay winning tickets?"

Of course not.

What if the commission simply stopped paying off winners.  Would people keep buying tickets.

Of course not.  It might take a few months but people would stop buying tickets.

What if the commission cunningly "picked" numbers that nobody had bought.  Would people keep buying tickets.

Of course not.  It might take a half year but people would stop buying tickets.

Gambling is considered an addiction and is regarded as extremely recalcitrant to "fixing".  And yet any of a few simple changes would cause that addiction to abate.

Strawman argument
Our conversationalist, the one with the heavy sighs, might object, "You are presenting a 'strawman' argument.  Life is far more complicated than your lottery example."

OK, I accept that criticism.  How about a real-life example?

Picture your typical, rust-belt corporation that is scrambling to survive.  It got caught in the acronym-of-the-month trap.  Every new fad that is written up in the HBR is rolled out.  Peons on the firing line quickly became jaded.  They learned to nod-and-ignore.

Let me recap: Many, many repetitions of classical conditioning train the first line supervisors to ignore the XYZ of the month.  It created a culture of jaded cynics, the band playing on the Titanic, if you will.

What would it take to change that culture?  Decades?  Years?  How about four months?  Process Failure Modes and Effects was implemented to the marrow in four, short months in the last plant where I worked.

The change in culture penetrated to the remotest, most dimly lit, hell-hole of the plant.  It penetrated to the densest supervisor on the shift that received the least Management attention.

What did it take?

It is the resources, stupid
Maintenance was forbidden to work on anything that did not have an RPN (Severity X Frequency of occurances X Fragility of detection) reduction explicitly calculated on the work order.  As a production supervisor, you were completely abandoned by Maintenance unless you could converse intelligently in "RPN".

Within weeks the smarter supervisors were spouting "detection" and "frequency" with glib fluency.  The dumber ones took a couple of months.  It was a matter of survival.

Let's work this backwards
Suppose you are at that party and you hear that heavy sigh, "..and of course it is impossible to change the culture."

Let's follow that beam of light back through the prism.  What is that statement really telling you?

It is a pretty good bet that the person making that statement is really saying, "Changing the resource allocation would adversely impact ME!"  In other words, "I am on 'the take'."  or "My rice bowl totally depends on not changing how resources are allocated."

OK, half my readers don't buy it.

Suppose we were to decide that children of single-parent families were at much higher risk for dropping out of school, ending up in prison and a life trapped in poverty.

Further suppose that some bright person observed that one way to reduce production is to eliminate subsidies.  What if...we penalized single-parents rather than families with two parents.  That is, suppose there was a welfare bonus paid to poor dual-parent families Vis-à-vis single parent families.

I am not proposing that all supports to single-parent families be eliminated, just that they be less than what is offered to dual-parent families.

What are the odds of this happening?  Pretty close to zero because threats to the "victim-poverty" industry threaten many rice-bowls.

Key point:  Anybody who claims "...culture cannot be changed" is likely to have a vested interest in keeping culture exactly the way it is.  Even if they are complaining about "popular culture."

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