Organization Culture and Leadership by Edgar & Peter Schein
I want to help you to grow your mindset and share my passion for impact. Thus, in this blog series, I have hand-picked the bestselling publications and essential managerial tools. This enables you to make a sustainable renewal of your business and personal life. The goal of the first season is to build a common body of knowledge and a starting platform for you. By reading further you will:
- save scarce time reading about renewal, culture and the best performing teams
- extend your leadership toolbox to support your business decisions
- build a personal growth-mindset required to excel as an evolutionary leader
Our growth mindset journey starts with the book, Organizational Culture & Leadership written by Edgar Schein and his son, Peter. Peter adds some good insights to this fifth revised version of the “Bible” of organizational culture with his refreshed insights on the cultural effects of digitalization and questions the outcomes of the new era of business building, mostly on the “better faster” – mentality.
In my opinion, this book is the basic platform for us to better understand the underlying factors and motivations of organizations to operate effectively towards the same purpose and direction. The book is very hands-on with past cases corporate of culture evolution, successes, challenges and failures. These public and private organizational examples from the DEC Corporation, the Singapore Development Office and Ciba-Ceigy are still very relevant today, just place your 2020 organization´s name in their place and be surprised?
The basic findings, learnings and challenges of the book on the people side of business come back again and again. Maybe it’s because the common memory of humankind, especially in the business context, seems to often be very shortsighted and short-term gains driven?
Influencing, not commanding
Culture by definition according to Schein is challenging because it is an abstract, deep-wide-complex and multi-dimensional. It is always a group phenomenon, any kind of a social unit that shares the same interests and direction. The strength of the group´s culture depends on the length of time together, the stability of memberships in the group, joint historical learning experiences and emotional intensity described also as “togetherness”. The last depends on level 1 vs. 2 relationships that are explained deeper in the book. Concretely this means, for example, what a specific group like an executive team or a team of engineers have learned hands-on and concretely together to survive, grow, deal with the external world and to organize itself for the best outcomes.
According to many of the latest studies’ organizational cultures (including occupational sub-cultures) are, on many occasions, stronger than national cultures. However, macro-cultures should also always be considered in culture works with multi-national organizations or with any company with a multi-cultural workforce. With my own background in the global hospitality industry, this has already been the case for many decades. How about in your business and industry?
It is important for you as a leader to understand that you can influence the groups’ unconscious behaviour, but you cannot command it. Therefore, the time for command & control is gone and it might work only on crisis situations like natural disasters or ad-hoc difficult humane situations. Even armies are changing their organizational cultures from the old way of a chain of command & control to more open, self-directed and joint efforts with great success and better impact. Culture needs to be led.
Leadership needs to get involved actively in the creation of culture at each of the three stages of organizational cultural evolution from foundation to growth to maturity. Schein clearly identifies in the book these organizational culture and leadership stages with different types of actions, leadership styles, communication and the structures required for the cultural journey.
Three levels of culture
In the book, Schein defines the basic foundations to assess organizational culture. This managerial tool/model is like an iceberg where only level 1 is visible and two other levels are, at times, hidden underneath the surface. In order to understand well enough and be able to influence your organizational culture, you should be aware of all levels affecting from the past and now your working environment, resources and operating system.
At the tip of the cultural iceberg are the visible elements called artefacts. These are the tangible and ‘feelable’ structures and processes like brand, marketing materials, office spaces, uniforms etc. These include behaviours that can be observed, but which, however, are sometimes difficult to decipher for a non-insider. Therefore, do not jump too fast to conclusions on any organization´s culture based only on your subjective visual of the artefacts.
The first level under the surface is espoused values. These are ideals, goals, values, aspirations, ideologies and rationalizations which may or may not be interlinked to visible behaviours or artefacts. These are accepted and supported values which sometimes are not identical to the publicly stated or written ones.
The underlying assumptions are the deepest level of culture. They are ways to indirectly, in a hidden way, to confront, operate and appreciate other members of the organization. These are often unconscious and ‘taken-for-granted’ beliefs and values which are determined thru behaviours, perceptions, thoughts and feelings.
Learning oriented leader
I want to emphasize that no culture changes should be done just for personal managerial reasons or just for the sake of improving. On some occasions, the root-cause might not be culture-based at all.
According to my experience, cultural development initiatives always create some kind of hassle and frustration in any organization. In the end, every individual wants to know “what is in it for me?” Thus, any cultural development focus should always be clearly targeted to where performance should be developed. In order to do so, a real and clear concrete cultural problem should be measured, analyzed, synthesized and shared together within the organization´s proprietary words.
As a leader, you are mainly responsible that the strategy of your organization has a positive impact on your key organizational drivers. What is planned is done and materialized thru your actions, but even more important through your people´s results, motivation and performance. In order to make your strategy successful and live in everyday work life, you need to align it with the culture and get your people engaged. The key is to work on three levels of culture and get your people along in that work in order to show appreciation and trust towards them as individuals and experts. In my opinion, strategy is the guiding force, your common (and hopefully shared) direction and navigation map. The culture is the driving force and the boat engine, giving the right time and resources related pace. It always takes two to tango, you and your people together. Culture and strategy are mutually-inclusive elements – the heart and veins of your company – making or breaking your expected cultural evolution.
The culture evolution journey starts with every one of us. Edgar Schein concludes, very well in his book on learning-oriented leadership – “Know the cultures that are inside you”.
Key questions for you to consider to become a culture, conscious leader
- In a situation where there is a need for change, prior to acting, do you know enough about the espoused values and underlying assumptions of your organization?
- How do you build an engaged, growth-minded and strategically aligned organizational culture?
The next blog will be about the secrets of highly successful groups. Keep following.
Jere Talonen – Your co-pilot helping you to bridge the gap between strategy, values and behaviours from the boardroom to the shop floor by combining EX with CX. In the blog series, he shares his learnings from a multi-industry international career extending over 20 years as a leader, entrepreneur, business coach & consultant, as well as an executive team and board member. Sharing is caring. Currently, Jere acts as Principal Consultant – Recoding Culture and the Future of work at Gofore Plc.
Hey, you summer applicant! Do you want to hear the experiences of our last year summer employees? Alan, Ossian and Tommi will tell you how the summer recruitment process went and what happened after that. And sorry for the spoiler, but in the end, there are also their tips for applying to Gofore. Check those too!
Who are you?
Alan: Heyo, I’m Alan. I’m working as a UX designer, currently improving our own Slack bots intended to help goforeans. Study-wise, I’ve been in Information Networks at Aalto University since 2016 and look to finish my Bachelors’ degree soon (I promise). Before coming to Gofore, I had very little work experience, most of my strengths were gathered by self-learning via YouTube tutorials and own projects.
Ossian: Hey I’m Ossian, a junior software developer working on one of Gofore’s internal bots, Granny. In September I moved to Helsinki and started pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at Aalto University. At the time of applying to Gofore though, I was living in Turku and finishing up my bachelor’s degree in information and communication technology (in Finnish ‘tietotekniikka’) at the University of Turku. I’ve also previously studied and worked in the U.S. but prior to Gofore I hadn’t yet had a tech job on Finnish soil.
Tommi: Howdy! I’m Tommi and I’m working as a Software developer developing our internal chatbots. I study Computer Science at Aalto University as a master’s student. Previously I have worked as a summer trainee for a couple of summers in different companies.
Why did you apply for a summer job at Gofore?
Alan: I saw a summer job ad in the Athene’s (Information Networks guild) recruitment letter. The whole application concept seemed unique, so I decided to look more into the company behind it. The more I read about Gofore, the more I started to fancy it. I thought to myself that even if I don’t get in if I get to the hackathon, I gain a project for my portfolio during the application process and can show that to my benefit while applying elsewhere. So, there was no way I’d lose applying to Gofore.
Ossian: I had never heard of Gofore before applying and if wasn’t for my sister, I would have missed the opening. She had spotted Gofore’s ad and told me about it. What had really caught her eye, was that instead of traditional interviews or coding tests, Gofore was organizing a one-day hackathon. I figured that even if I wouldn’t be offered a job, just participating in the hackathon would be a valuable and fun experience in itself (and I’d get free food) and thus worth my time regardless of the outcome. Additionally, I was happy to see that Gofore had an office also in Turku so I could potentially enjoy summer in my college town before moving to the Helsinki area to continue my studies.
Tommi: Gofore seemed an interesting company to work for as I had heard good things about the company before applying. Gofore also had an interesting hiring process for summer employees last year and I wanted to showcase my skills in a hackathon.
What was the application process like?
Alan: It was really straightforward. This year’s summer job hackathon felt more like an opportunity to learn and put my skills into practice. The only interview I attended was held during the hackathon and it was kept really short. The hackathon itself was a nice way to get to know goforeans and other applicants as well. The hackathon was held on a Saturday and the following week on Thursday I got a happy call that I was offered a summer job, so I was very pleased with the speed of the application process as well.
Ossian: Going into the hackathon I was extremely nervous. We had been instructed to pick a few interesting data sets from avoindata.fi but otherwise I had no idea what we would be doing. However, once I had met my group and we started planning our project, I was able to relax, and my focus shifted from getting the job to getting our product to work. After about eight hours of hammering away at our keyboards, we got to admire everyone’s final products as well as to just hang out for a few hours with each other and some current employees that had spent the day with us. That was both a relaxing way to end a pretty intense day and a good opportunity to learn more about Gofore and goforeans.
Tommi: It was different compared to other companies as there was no pre-assignment. I only had to send my application and spend one Saturday at a hackathon at Gofore’s office in Kamppi. The hackathon day was a super nice event and it also helped me to get to know the company better. Less than a week after the hackathon I already got a call offering me a summer job that I happily accepted.
How was starting out?
Alan: I didn’t have a project ready for me to hop into right away, so in the first week I mainly tried to get to know Gofore and goforeans. After a week I had the opportunity to help in an internal project interviewing goforeans regarding our feedback culture. Tea Latvala told me in the first meeting something along the lines of: We’re going to have the first interviews in two days, you’ll be the interviewer and I’ll take notes. I was really nervous and anxious to jump straight into something that isn’t my forté, but at the same time, it felt nice to be trusted from the get-go.
Ossian: I started at the Turku office in early May and I was quickly given a new internal project to develop on my own. Gofore has some chatbots that are used internally to replace middle management and to automate boring and repetitive tasks such as reporting work hours. I was given the task to both designs and implement a new internal chatbot that would answer any questions that goforeans are frequently asking. I didn’t really have any prior experience of chatbot design or development or natural language processing so to start I spent some time reading both design articles and documentation for the chatbot tool Dialogflow as well as messing around with the development tools.
Tommi: Starting was made easy and comfortable. The first day was spent getting to know the company and its culture better. I was assigned immediately to an internal project. It was nice that from the very beginning I was considered as a fully-fledged team member and not just a summer employee.
What else did you do this summer?
Alan: After the project with Tea, I had the opportunity to help in another customer interview project for a private customer. For the majority of my summer, I spent time with a public sector client doing UX in a large team. I learned how to use Sketch and picked up tons of small tips and tricks from co-workers every day. In hindsight, it was really nice that I got to work on an internal project, for a private sector client and also for the public sector, because I gained brief experience on all sides.
Ossian: Since I worked on the FAQ bot, I spent most of my summer asking a lot of questions and then teaching those, as well as the answers to the bot as well as writing a Node backend for the bot. However, I got to also utilise my other skills as I helped a colleague by editing a video and took some photos of summer employee day activities and created some graphics for marketing our bots at the Shift Business festival where I got to represent Gofore with my colleagues.
Tommi: As I stated before I developed our internal chatbots. It has been a nice project to start with and I have learned a lot during the summer. I never thought that building a chatbot could be this complex and interesting project.
What makes Gofore a good summer employer?
Alan: As a junior employee, it’s nice to be valued and trusted as an equal contributor from day one. During the summer I was trusted with three different projects and had full support throughout. I feel like I could ask anyone for help, and they’d give it gladly. I came in as a narrow UI oriented student and by the end of summer felt like a more capable UX designer having gained skills outside of my small comfort zone.
Ossian: First I was surprised by how much freedom I was given and how much trust was placed in me, but once I got used to it, I’ve been loving it. Still, I’m not alone in my work and have found help and support when I’ve needed it. Also, it’s great to be surrounded by people in a variety of different roles: service, UX and UI designers, data scientists, service architects, developers… And though I’m primarily a developer, I’m not limited by my role and love that I’ve been able to sneak bits of graphics design and photography into my work.
Tommi: Gofore offers a great place to improve your skills and learn new things as well. You are valued as an individual and you get to work in the same projects as the regular employees. Also, one of Gofore’s values is that “Gofore is a great workplace.” and it really shows in everyday life. You get help from others when you need it and having a break over a game of pool or table football gets your mind off work problems for a moment. Gofore also encourages people to spend time on their personal development which is a big plus.
What skills and experience that you have helped get the job and do well?
Alan: My studies in the Information Networks program are a huge asset. With more of a generalist education, I can use my broad studies to my benefit when discussing decisions and justifying them with multiple viewpoints. More concretely what helped me to get the summer job was that I learned Adobe Xd through YouTube tutorials and made a mobile app prototype for my application. The prototype was hacked together in two evenings and in the end, didn’t even work properly, but I think it showed my eagerness to learn and actually use and show the things I’ve learned. Having done two or three own projects made me more confident in my abilities.
Ossian: Obviously, I can only guess what got me to the hackathon and then hired. Maybe it was the personal projects I included in my resume to make up for my limited work experience. To keep this recent and interesting (and to not just list my Github highlights) I added a few sillier things such as this running CSS dinosaur.
It’s a cliché, but I’ve always been curious and loved learning and asking questions and that was exactly what I did this summer. And since developing a chatbot is as much a design job as development work, having the ability to put me in the user’s shoes was really instrumental.
Tommi: I think the most important skill is a willingness to learn. Working as a software developer is constantly learning and you are never ready. Of course, it helps if you know a thing or two about software development beforehand. Another key skill that I think is required is communication. You must be able to communicate your thoughts within your team clearly. Doing school projects and personal development projects help me to become a better programmer and they look good in your portfolio.
Here are some tips for you when applying to Gofore:
- If you don’t have many projects to show, making something small for your application is a great way to start. You learn a thing or two along the way and show your skills doing so.
- Be honest and believe in yourself. We are hundreds of individuals and no one is “perfect” or “normal” whatever that means so just be yourself and know that’s more than enough. You can do it!
- When attending the workshop, focus on the task at hand and how you can do the best you can as a group. It’s understandable to want to show off your skills, but don’t do it at the cost of your group’s success. After all, work-life is most of the time, about teamwork and excelling as a team rather than about flexing your muscles.
- Related to a previous point, especially for summer jobs, your “soft skills” such as communication and teamwork skills and ability and eagerness to learn are more important than specific technical skills. So rather than trying to show off what you know now, demonstrate that you are willing and able to learn.
- The projects you add to your resumé or portfolio don’t need to be huge or complex. Including some smaller and more recent projects show your more recent skills and that you’re constantly learning.
It’s already time to plan summer 2020. Apply for a summer job at Gofore in summer 2020 ➡️➡️ https://gofore.com/ketterastikesatoihin/.
What is a Smart City? How it is different in planning or for the people that live there? What “smartly built” or “smartly behaving” cities offer to sustainably? Is “smart” equal to eco-friendly or is sustainability more important than the absolute “smartness” of the city?
Smart cities differ from “normal” cities in their ability to predict – and maybe to be a proactive platform for services. They offer quality-of-life and happiness for their residents. When inhabitants find a problem (for example with day-care, schools, roads, safety etc.), the city is expected to react and fix it. And with lots of requirements, the cities need to prioritise their efforts and preferably find out the problems already before they are pointed out by the people.
“Scenario: Our preferred day-care close to our home is fully booked. The city offers an alternative day-care near my workplace. They provide detailed information on how I can take my children there – using a bus and a monthly ticket is the cheapest option. Another affordable and eco-friendly alternative is a bicycle with a child carrier. All the information above I received through my CityApp. We did not even have to apply for day-care, we only gave access to the city to our MyData and received these personalised services.”
In that scenario, two things need to be solved:
1) Data collection and utilisation
The city is required to gather, use and offer data as a service for various apps and solutions. Before that, it is required to understand what data is needed, what data exists what needs to be generated – and how those data can be utilised to serve the citizens.
2) User consent
To be able to receive personalised service, the user must share some of their personal data. Through MyData, personal information can be shared in a controlled manner. Combining personal data with anonymised wider data sets is an efficient way to provide well-targeted services for individuals. The handlers of the data, i.e. the cities must be conscious of data security and prevent the misuse.
Cities will face remarkable challenges in the near future with continuous growth in population and people density combined with carbon-neutral sustainability requirements. To tackle such challenges, cities must be smart in their data and knowledge-based city planning and providing sustainable services proactively to the citizens. Gofore is working on such solutions with various cities, as well as governmental organisations.
Gofore Case: City of Helsinki education division communication system
The city of Helsinki has started a project to develop communications between the authorities and families having children in day-care or at school – and to develop city services, using data and AI. Within the project, the services are developed proactively, and related data is applied widely. The development is open-sourced to guarantee easier response for future requirements. The overreaching objective is to serve the families with same data and applications from day-care requirements throughout the high schools.
In this project, Gofore is responsible for user experience design and software development of the communication system between the families and authorities.
See also another reference of City of Helsinki
Gofore Case: X-road
X-Road is an open-source data exchange mechanism that enables reliable and secure data exchange between different information systems over the Internet. As a highly interoperable and centrally managed distributed data exchange layer, it provides a standardised and structured way to integrate different types of information systems and to produce and consume services. It is an easy, cost-effective, reliable, secure, well-supported and tested solution for enabling Smart City solutions. X-Road technology is used nationwide in the Estonian public administration and in the Finnish Suomi.fi Data Exchange Layer service.
Gofore has delivered Finnish X-Road implementation and various services into Suomi.fi portal. The development continues. Additionally, Gofore is a publicly procured X-Road core developer for Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS) and currently the only Gold level X-Road Technology Partner.
“Scenario: City planner uses Chatbots for planning a new neighbourhood in the city. AI behind the Chatbot gathers and analyses invaluable data for the planning from the discussions with the citizens. When the planning proceeds, the Chatbot notifies people that have shown interest or are living in the areas affected by the planning. City planners have this efficient, all-knowing colleague supporting them at their work. They predict planner needs and help to formulise and iterate for detailed enough information through citizen engagement.”
Cities are service organisations for their inhabitants and visitors – as well as a productive and lucrative working environment for civil servants. Digital technology is an enabler, with services and solutions required to be very human-centric. A smart city does not mean that people would not have to do anything, but in order to be smart, the city is expected to ease our life by providing easy choices and proactive, well-targeted proposals.
In Finland, there is an ongoing project, called “AuroraAI” that aims to implement an AI boosted operational model that is based on peoples’ and companies’ needs to utilise various services in a timely and ethically sustainable manner. Combination of services from various sources support peoples’ life-events and companies’ business-related events, facilitating seamless, effective and smoothly functioning service paths throughout the process. This provides people with a new way of taking care of their needs and overall well-being. Simultaneously, the system will promote service providers’ to form dynamic, customer-oriented service chains in collaboration with other operators and to manage their activities based on up-to-date information. Gofore is working within the programme to create such multi-disciplined for the inhabitants in Finnish cities.
Gofore case: Chatbots
Artificial intelligence makes Netflix recommend programmes for us and Facebook automatically tags recognised friends in photos. A robot car could not drive without machine learning. But can artificial intelligence also help ordinary office workers? Yes, it can. We have developed three intelligent chatbots that help people perform many essential everyday tasks effortlessly.
Seppo, Granny and Gene are text-based conversational chatbots that operate in the Slack instant message environment frequently used by Gofore employees. Seppo is the veteran of the bunch being originally developed in 2016. Seppo was born out of a real need: Seppo fulfils, or actively prompts Gofore employees to realise administrative tasks that nobody is keen to do but which are very important for keeping the self-guided organisation going. For example, Seppo prompts for unreported working hours, or advises an employee to take a break if they work too much. Based on the good experiences with Seppo, we have developed additional chatbots to help with everyday routine tasks. Gene, for example, makes a complicated flow of booking train tickets and reporting travel expenses in a simple conversational manner. Granny, for her part, is a laid-back office advisor, who can be consulted on general matters regarding the company.
Read more about the bots
What can be done to grow the intelligence of the cities? Meet us in Smart City Expo 2019 and let’s figure it out. Event details can be found here.
In an episode of America’s Got Talent, an aspiring stand-up comedian puts on a despondent expression and sighs “I had my identity stolen. It’s okay. They gave it right back.” That’s funny, right? Except for the fact that in the real world it isn’t funny at all. Your identity is your cultural, familial, emotional, economic, and social anchor, at the very least. So, if your identity is stolen, you don’t get it back just like that. It’s a personal integrity catastrophe that’s very hard to recover from.
eID Forum 2019 in Tallinn
eID Forum 2019 – Shaping the Future of eID took place on 17 and 18 of September in the lovely Hanseatic city of Tallinn. The aim of eID Forum was to bring together representatives from the public (governments) and private (industry) sectors. They achieved a presence of more than 300 participants from 34 countries to share ideas and emphasise the urgency of facilitating trustworthy civil and business digital transactions across national boundaries.
The Forum focused on high-level overviews of the processes and technologies used to develop contemporary eID solutions. We noticed a technology-centric focus and marketing of ready-made solutions. The focus topics for this year were:
- a cross-border digital standard for mobile driving licences,
- the future of digital borders, and face recognition and its use cases in airports, and
Should you be able to identify yourself or just your right to drive?
Huge efforts are being made to standardise driving licences that can exist in a form other than paper or plastic. But first, what is an eID (e-Identity)? An eID is a unique and immutable digital proof of identity for citizens and for organisations. One’s eID is a right and cannot be suspended or revoked because it is akin to, for example, one’s birth certificate. While an eID’s core attributes must be fundamentally self-sovereign and immutable, a wide variety of attributes can be granted to it and revoked from it. For example, privileges such as holding a driving licence. And one’s eID must be multimodal for use across a variety of digital identification-dependent systems and communication channels.
In Estonia, one does not have to carry any type of driving licence with him/her; not a physical or a mobile version of it. If it is possible to identify the person, then all the needed information can be checked digitally (the right to drive, having insurance, etc). This data exchange has, of course, to be done in a secure way. In Estonia, these data requests are done over the secure data exchange layer known as X-Road, which Gofore has had a role in developing since 2015.
Challenges with interoperability and rapid technological change
The idea behind eID standardisation and interoperability is that government services become more user-friendly, flexible, convenient, and resilient to many kinds of risks caused by otherwise divergent designs and implementations. But despite the fact that electronic identification is regulated in the EU by eIDAS (electronic Identification, authentication and trust services), its implementation in different countries is progressing at significantly varying speed and scope. There was recurring mention by presenters of the urgent need for eID standardisation, whether it be de jure or de facto, and the need for cross-border interoperability of the various eID solutions already in existence.
At the same time, the main challenges concerning eID are, in our opinion, twofold:
- Technological advancements for eID (including secure devices and identification capabilities like face recognition) are evolving fast and we do not know how regulation could keep up in this race.
- Did you know that according to the World Bank Group’s 2018 #ID4D Global Dataset, an estimated one billion people around the globe do not have an identity that they can prove? So for them, provable identity is not just missing in the digital society, it is totally missing. Since they face difficulties in proving who they are, they do not have access to services requiring digital identity. Might we consider having oneself listed in population registers as a human right?
Such fast-paced digital evolution as presented and debated at eID Forum is affecting every organisation in some way or another. We can help you rise to the challenges of fast digital change that you are facing your business domain. We can support you with organisational and technological change. All these consultations are available in Europe or world-wide through your nearest location: Estonia, Finland, UK, Germany or Spain.