A Tool to Help Gibbs (or Anyone Else) Assess Cultural Fit
Young, hip, innovative, fresh, forward thinking; all adjectives you would use to describe Facebook. The same words don’t immediately come to mind for Robert Gibbs, who is old enough to be the CEO’s father and has just departed one of the most closed-off, buttoned-up work sites in the country – The White House.
This situation, although magnified in this instance given the high-profile nature of Facebook and Gibbs, is common in Corporate America where similar cultural transitions happen all the time as part of executive onboarding. To help Gibbs, Mark Zuckerberg and everyone else moving through the motions of this frequent occurrence of transition management, we have developed a tool which will be featured in the upcoming edition of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan that can assist in figuring out if the fit is right.
The issue is that “fit” is hard to define, hard to figure out in advance, a critical predictor of success, and the number one stated reason for failure. (Though, of course, the stated reason for failure doesn’t often match the actual reason for failure.)
Worse, an organization’s culture itself is hard to define and rarely actually matches the stated or self-described culture. For example, what famous company’s cultural values included “Communication, Respect, Integrity and Excellence”?………. ENRON. Making it clear that not everyone does what they say they should do.
To evaluate culture effectively we believe in utilizing a BRAVE framework: Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment. We further propose that matching what an individual has become comfortable with and what’s really going on in an organization can give you a read on cultural fit.
BRAVE Character and Culture
Behave: How people act, make decisions, control the business, etc.
Relate: How people communicate with others (including mode, manner and frequency), engage in intellectual debate, manage conflict, assign credit and blame, etc.
Attitude: How people feel about the organization’s purpose, mission, vision, identify with the subgroup, group, organization as a whole, basis for power, etc.
Values: The underlying assumptions beliefs, intentions, approach to learning, risk, time horizons, etc.
Environment: The work environment in terms of office space protocols, décor, etc.
The big potential disconnects between Gibbs and Facebook are in the areas of Relationships and Environment. On the one hand, it’s as hard to imagine a more walled, formal office setting than the White House and a more informal office setting than the open cacophony of Facebook’s hip geek gongers. On the other hand, I suspect Gibbs could adjust to that.
The real issues are likely going to be in the way the two groups relate. Gibbs has gotten used to very high-level, very formal communication. Facebookers are formal in their programming and proudly anti-formal in their personal interactions. Even more telling, while Facebookers have been spending their time dealing with new tools for people to connect with each other at a surface level, Gibbs has been involved in in-depth intellectual debates about some of the world’s most fundamental, intractable problems.
I’m not sure how Gibbs and Zuckerberg and his tribe will fit together. What’s scary is neither are they and neither are most people looking to onboard into new organizations. Hopefully this tool can help. Click here to get a paper emailed to you on using the tool to assess cultural fit.
This is one part of step 1 of The New Leader’s Playbook: Position Yourself for Success
There are several components of this including positioning yourself for a leadership role, selling before you buy, mapping and avoiding the most common land mines, uncovering hidden risks in the organization, role, and fit, and choosing the right approach for your transition type.
The New Leader’s Playbook includes the 10 steps that executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis uses to help new leaders and their teams get done in 100-days what would normally take six to twelve months. George Bradt is PrimeGenesis’ managing director, and co-author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 2009). Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube.
 Dattner, Ben, The Blame Game, Free Press, 2011