In the 1803 Battle of Maida, an army of 6,200 Napoleonic French prepared for battle against 5,200 allied British and Italian soldiers.
At the beginning of the battle, a commander for the allied army sent orders to “advance when the drums sound.” By the time the order reached the front lines, it had been interpreted as “advance, sounding the drums.”
Despite such a colossal miscommunication, the allies were able to fight their way to victory. But misinterpretations and miscues are often one of the greatest hindrances within teams.
Crystal clear communication is an essential ingredient of success for any organization, and in order to communicate well, there must be a shared language; with words and phrases which become the daily building blocks of an organization’s culture.
At SEI, we guard our culture vigilantly. Part of The SEI Way of doing business is not only ensuring that we share the same core values, but also that our language reinforces those values.
What kind of culture does the following terminology evoke in your mind? And more importantly, what kind of action do the following words inspire?
- It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it.
- Plan your work and work your plan.
- Just do something.
- Fail forward.
- Think big, start small, scale quickly.
- We’ve got your back!
- We’re in the people business.
- Keep the small things the small things.
- I want to hear what I don’t want to hear.
- We’re the island of misfit toys.
- They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Our service is so old school, it’s new school!
- Embrace the chaos!
- Focus on people, the numbers will take care of themselves.
- What’s your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)?
These are a handful of words and phrases that we use at SEI daily; you’ll hear them in conversations, on our enterprise social network, in training and in meetings.
In contrast, what kind of culture does the following terminology evoke? And what kind of action does it inspire?
- I’m too busy.
- It can’t be done.
- Failure is not tolerated.
- We don’t have time for that.
- You’re not measuring up.
- Why would you do that?
- What were you thinking?
- That’s not my job.
These are expressions that you might hear at a Big Dumb Company. The same company that loses it’s greatest asset- it’s people– to companies that are intentional about building a great culture.
SEI’s Vision, Four Core Objectives and SR5 are the foundational building blocks of our corporate culture, a culture that is either constructed or deconstructed in the words of the SEI team. The words we use in our offices, around the water cooler, at home, and in meetings, are representative of the culture we’re building.
If we are to work together as an effective and cohesive team, we must ensure that we bang our drums and advance at the same time!
Are there examples of a “shared language” at your organization?