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NARRATIV.DESIGN

  • Abhijit Das

Aligning Cultural Resets through the great reshuffle

We have to admit that businesses are constantly on their toes to find pathways between uncertainty and certainty. In my 20 odd years of work experience I have noticed that this discussion on responding to uncertainty comes with a different texture as a c-suite matter. As a c-suite matter, it is mostly a closed room discussion and floating around in legends expressed in alt. narratives by the rest. The alt. narratives point at a critical lapse of managing internal culture over communication remits.


You can say that this is no different from a family situation where all matters are not to be brought to the dinner table always. And all as part of a method, not necessarily with an intention to hide anything, but simply because it is work-in-progress and it isn’t a problem for all to solve. But there is something new to this challenge. The old method was only right for so long as COVID reset has reshuffled the world into realizing that there is not a single problem worth solving which doesn’t require all-hands to roll up their sleeves and pull a proportionate weight towards the same goal. Climate, Unemployment, Diversity, Governance, Remote Work – none of them can work if all are not aligned and adding some value at their own spot, in their own way. It is challenging to adopt to this playing field as organizations particularly when ‘Best Practices’ from the past could no longer be served. The world ‘as is’ doesn’t support that program anymore.


You’ve got to upgrade the operating system which runs the apps. moving society, organizations, governments, systems from point A to point B. This challenge of ‘Cultural Alignment’ is fast becoming an always-on imperative and a comprehensive ecosystem action item. UBER is one of the most recent and brilliant example of such an exercise over a Brand (Cultural) Reset.




Leaders have to shuffle between uncertainty and certainty, often on their own, with their biases, comforts, beliefs and convictions aggregated over a lifetime. Sometimes these shows up in many unexpected ways. And unless there is a Culture Coach attached to them, like an Agile Coach is attached to Transformation Leads, it can get very entangled. Take for example, the JUUL products and FDA entanglement case or for the matter the current KPMG case of audit breach case. One wonders how did the system manage the cultural content circulating in it for so long? How did ‘obvious questions’ go unasked in the process of progress?


Is it possible to develop a system which takes away the blindfolds gradually?


Is it possible to build system-wide awareness of these nodes over a method of exchange, as part of a brand culture?


Is it possible to put together an approach to act on uncertainties and cultural circulation blockages with optimal narratives?


From experience, we observe that certainty heavy systems rely on the ‘as is’ approach, falling back on precedents to understand ‘what is what’ and define ‘what next’. Uncertainty heavy systems rely on the ‘as if’ approach to grasp ‘what is what’ and define ‘what next’. Open the hood of a legacy organization culture or a start-up organization culture, you’ll find that it is hard coded into them often unarticulated, laid out like a cultural trap, rather than a cultural map.

The sweet spot between Certainty and Uncertainty could be regulated over beliefs, convictions, biases and comforts by tuning cultural values which inform the brand culture. Businesses, both young and old, will have to adopt an always on approach to take a closer look into these nodes of cultural circulation and strike a balance routinely and iteratively in order to arrive at the best-case scenario, inclusively and faster.


As the need for reset and reform grows in resolution (closer than they appear), legacy businesses tend to run towards start-ups for a cultural lesson while start-ups tend to run to legacy structures for smoothening clashing flows. However, this is simply just running around and looking busy without a compass. Besides, there is no possibility of an ‘as is’ approach not meeting the ‘as if’ approach in business-as-usual, today or tomorrow. Neither could there be any homogenous isolated wholes in a real world, maybe in the #metaverse, but we don’t know that yet. But what we do know is that harmony is possible with conscious action over a remit.


The speed at which systemic changes are rubbing against every decision can exhaust leaders navigating through the cultural resets. The soft-tissue issues require a hands-on approach and could hardly be left to AI dashboards. Any C-Level executive would tell you how this matter is more complex than what could be put into a job description with a “People Officer” or “Diversity Officer” badge. We agree. It is as complex as culture should be. And we agree that It merits a systematic approach to come at it iteratively, playing close to the chest with empathy, rolling up the sleeves and soaking up the emotional content around behaviors.


There is no templated way to go about it. Tempted as we are to throw Jungian Archetypes, Myers & Briggs Personality Tests at the soft-tissue issues – we rely mostly on the old-fashioned - sharp questions and listening skills.


There is just too much at stake without getting into cultural textures which make up the whole business environment of today. An empathetic approach is not necessarily out of hand though it definitely takes an appetite to go through the iterative process. And most importantly calling the remit to reach out for external support.


We suggest you begin with a study of alt. narratives circulating in the culture. This stage could give a face to this invisible ally (called culture, not chaos) which sometimes happens to clog truth exchanges.



Care to share with us your method which works for you to lead through this reshuffle? Or would you like us to join your effort to co-create one which suits your vision and internal culture?



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