Culture and Friction

Culture is how you work.

Friction is a force of resistance.

At The Suddes Group we lead organizations through campaigns that advance impact. Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it is getting and we view campaigns as a process that requires a change in design. Note: Change doesn’t have to be a deficit, it can be enhancement.

In every instance, there are elements of cultural (or team) friction that must be overcome. This is because the campaign process requires that the team changes how it works (and humans are complex).

In the world of physics, overcoming friction (static or kinetic) requires energy. The same is true in terms of overcoming a force of resistance in a team. You can apply more energy OR you can remove the force of resistance.

(Incidentally, overcoming friction also releases energy in the form of heat. The brakes on your car become very hot because they create enough friction to slow, or stop, your car).

I’ve been thinking about all the cultures in which we work and some of the sources of friction. They usually include one or more of the following:

  • Story
  • Role Clarity
  • Communication
  • Clear Action Plan
  • Wrong Team/Team Member

Jim Loehr is my ‘virtual story mentor.’ I think the stuff the guy wrote in The Power of Story is the best there is – He says that the most powerful story in the world is the story we tell ourselves. He also says that anything that consumes our ENERGY can be a story (even if we don’t call it a story)!

Think about how much energy it consumes if we sit in a planning meeting telling ourselves, “No one has ever given us a million dollars. We aren’t designed for million dollar gifts.” Instead of a completely different story, “We’ve never asked for one million dollars, and that’s why we don’t have it!”

I’ll also comment on the wrong team (members). We’ve all been there. You can apply energy to overcome the force of a bad (or wrong) team member. Energy has a cost. But there is another cost, like the heat that emits from the brakes on a car, there is the heat that dissipates to your team.

We can apply energy to work through the resistance. Or, we can remove the resistance – change the story, develop a clear plan, change a team member, etc.

PS: In physics two objects in motion actually have TWO measurements of friction. There is static friction – which represents the force to overcome the static state. There is also kinetic friction required to keep a body in motion. It takes more energy to overcome static friction than it does to overcome friction in motion (kinetic). Same is true in our team culture(s).

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