What a culture values is what it does and what it produces.

Culture is often simply a system of production. To the extent it exists as a healthy entity – it produces what it values.


Culture people talk about culture, systems people talk about systems and humancentric people talk about humans. We need to stop this. If you seek to talk about one, talk about all. Culture is what people do, not what you tell them to do, and systems are a reflection of people’s behaviors and intents and productivity is the outcome of all working together. So, if your productivity sucks stop looking for a “thing” and recognize it is a result of ‘things.’

That said.


Systems are persistent buggers. In fact, it is not unusual the persistence of a system is due solely to the existing mindsets, the language, the accepted ‘terms of agreement’ of how it works and should be worked, or, basically, what people consistently (almost as a default) think about it. This persists, the power/construct dynamics, as long as the terms of that agreement appear and feel favorable and the system thrives <or ‘works’>. As soon as the terms falter it begins to effect how people think about it and the system can become dysfunctional <or less functional than it was>. This persistency is also self-induced by the relationship of the system, people and productivity. Systems naturally deviate to the mean constantly dampening any deviations. In basic terms what this means is that systems naturally arc to existing productivity and discourages changes people may make to the system. Yes. Once a system is in place, and works, it is institutional gravity.

That said. It is fairly obvious that changes in terms of thinking affecting the system are rarely advanced by direct means especially if the system is working.

** note: “working”: working has a wide spectrum from ‘dysfunctional but productive’ to ‘functionally smooth’ and most business is comfortable with the range as long as KPIs and goals are met.

As with most systems, and human thinking, changes in attitudes are often inspired by unplanned events. That said.  Existing circumstances create environments/contexts which encourage, or discourage, listening/learning and sometimes, if done thoughtfully, we can bend circumstances in certain ways. But this is a tricky issue because ‘circumstances’ can be quite indirect in their influence as well as many can look unrelated to the future objective in the present.

Which leads me to the fact these vague relationships between cause and effect can often encourage people to think the system, itself, is something in and of itself. In other words, people don’t see themselves as within, and of, the system, but rather more often a victim, or beneficiary, of the system. This could be nothing further from the truth. People are the system and the only changes that can occur TO a system are created by people within, and interacting, with the system. Any one person can affect a system. Circling back to the beginning of this thought. If the persistence of the system is due to people (attitudes), it would behoove us to encourage people to think they are the system and, as David Amerland stated in Intentional, “attitudes are the lubricants which enable us to navigate complexity.”


Because once attitudinally people see themselves as systems influencers they will almost demand to have a better understanding of the systems roots, the things underpinning what makes it work, and doesn’t (it’s the way to isolate variants as well as possible leverage points). It also helps people understand the roles of people interacting with the system. The latter is important because cooperation is what optimizes systems and even speeds improvement.


Cooperation absolutely needs some attitude agreements to be effective, but in the end cooperation is about effective connections and connectivity. Effective connections create mini frameworks for thinking and doing, probabilities and possibilities, risk and return. These mini frameworks (systems within a system) frame what is an exception and what is not so that there can be, or the possibility of, effective navigation of situations. To optimize the connections, they mustn’t be constrained by rules, but rather principles. Therefore, all the data and information input get assessed not just as ‘data’, but also through a principles lens. This lens constructs a criterion to be applied to what can, or cannot, be done with the data. This, in turn, standardizes responses and decisions within a framework, but not limit the responses and decisions to some “plug ‘n play” lowest common denominator. It also permits some space to accommodate some fairly high levels of uncertainty and still make progress (make decisions).


While principles provide some boundaries the natural temptation within any system (as noted in my first points) is to maintain the system if ‘it works’ <even if ‘works’ is suboptimal>. So, part of the criteria people need to assume is the ability to identify the parameters that matter (every business has things that make them successful) and blow the rest of the shit up. It’s an ongoing version of creative destruction in which you destruct something to create and create to grow in terms of impact. To be clear. Anyone can blow shit up, the true test of blowing shit up is destroying, or destruction, TO create. In other words. destruct paradigms, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, mindsets, even the way things have always been done, in order to effectively set yourself apart from where you were before. Criterion is based on blowing shit up with a purpose in mind.


I would be remiss if I didn’t point out everything I have spoken of, even the system, revolves around people. I say that because while people are the system, they can simultaneously be a victim of a system. As noted earlier, systems are gravity and, at its worst, entropy. When you go into the details of most situations you will rarely find bad, ignorant, people, but rather find systems that have failed or are just bad or have just settled into a status quo mediocrity. Its easy to claim people are lazy or complacent or ‘sheep’ <following the crowd>, but more often than not people are constantly sifting through everything they are seeing and hearing and encountering — slowly but surely building up their own self <or, in a negative sense, tearing their own self down>. From a business perspective it is a sense of productivity. i.e., attitudes and behaviors that create the productivity that contributes to the system and is of the system.

I end there because if you want to change the system, once again, you need to address people and their attitudes. Productivity, 99% of the time, is a function of how each person sees how they can contribute to that productivity and, yes, people become what they ‘see’ <envision>. This is actually part of culture and I feel a need to point out that if you don’t like your culture you should probably begin with how the people see, attitudinally, their role in the systems of productivity. Here is what I do know. Systems, people, culture and productivity are inextricably linked and speaking of one without the others is, well, counterproductive.



this draft has lurked in my ‘draft fodder’ folder for quite some time and in using what i had written there I feel like there are a couple of points in this said by someone else. I do not want to take credit for something I did not think of <or maybe would have written that way> but i do not know who to credit. that said. the whole is mine, some parts inspired by someone else.

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Written by Bruce