The USDA is the same organization that designates what food is officially organic and how much untreated animal manure is too much for our open waterways. Well, to date, they haven't cried Uncle or Stop or issue standards on how much is too much; we'll keep waiting.
That's quite a range.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
But, can it be said that the FDA has a first-rate intelligence when it accommodates two opposing principles: approving food as 100% organic while allowing twice as much untreated manure to enter the open waterway from the CAFO’d hogs in one Iowa county as the sewage from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. (Iowa has 99 counties.) Link.
While an first-rate intelligence can hold two opposing thoughts, can a consumer embrace the USDA as a trusted source for food safety?
What's all this got to do with your business?
- Where's your culture conflict?
- Where is your culture's bi-polar duality expressed in a dysfunctional manner in the markeplace?
- Where do you say one thing, on your website, and execute another in your rules and tactics?
- Where in your employee engagement do you say 'we love you' or 'you're the most important part of our success 'and then silence or ignore their suggestions or needs?
As a leader you're very likely insulated by org chart and careers from this cognitive dissonance of your company's culture conflict. It happens; it's not personal. We all are constantly re-defining ourselves as we move through life. And since companies are people, too, my friend, companies are re-defining their brand, their culture, their identity.
Joss Whedon* offered this insight at a recent commencement address he gave:
You have, which is a rare thing, that ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself, to at least give it the floor, because it is the key — not only to consciousness, but to real growth. To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in.
This contradiction, and this tension … it never goes away. And if you think that achieving something, if you think that solving something, if you think a career or a relationship will quiet that voice, it will not.
Every company at one time was personal. Very personal. Every company was built on relationships. And then bureaucracy and rules, departments and titles, creeped in. ( Some of those rules and titles may prefer to handle dissent with a different approach. Rule it out, discourage it, punish its advocates. Ask GM how that approach worked.)
Now you may not even know the name of your most recent hire. It may be months or years since you spoke to a customer, one on one. That's very different than reading a report, even if it's a report of their collective or individual Net Promoter Scores.That's very different than considering personas, too.
That's where the culture conflict arises. In that process, that transition, from a culture of relationships, of knowing and experiencing, of passion, of looking in the eye honesty to one of distanced and nuanced reports, of territories and postures, saying what is thought to be right....for some other audience, for some other reason...you (the corporate and personal 'you') stopped listening to the dissent, to the dissenters and disruptors in yourself (corporate and personal selves).
Somewhere along the line the USDA lost sight of its purpose to protect our food supply. Its big now. Vast and anonymous. Reports and procedures and unknown decision-makers for unknown, unspoken stakeholders. No one's listening to...dissent. Sound familiar?
What if Tom Vilsack, the head of the USDA and former Governor of Iowa, stopped reading reports and making speeches to Chambers of Commerce, left his/her smart phone turned off. What if he went out to a grocery store and met with the ultimate customer of the USDA: shoppers. Families and kids, grandparent and parents. What if he asked them:
- Do you feel safer?
- Are we helping you make better choices for the health of your family?
- What can we do better?
But for you, what if you walked out of your office, sat on a park bench and called a customer?
- What if you asked the three questions of the Net Promoter Score? Then you could hear the customer's voice as they answered?
What if you just asked them:
- How do we make your life better, easier, simpler, happier?
- Do we?
- What can we do better?
Now. What if you did that with your employees? I don't mean just your direct reports. I mean the newest hire. What if you sat down and asked that person:
- What do you hope to achieve here?
- What could you achieve?
- What would you need to achieve that?
- What stands in your way?
- Where's our culture conflict? Where's the gap between our promise and our delivery?
What if you made this a regular habit? Walked outside that box you've created.
What if you began to reconcile your company's culture now with what it had been, back when it was exciting and fun and crazy and you were growing?