Just as birds flock and fish school, people tribe. A tribe is a naturally forming group of 20 to 150 people. Smaller companies can be a single tribe. In larger organizations, there can be many tribes; for instance, it is easy to spot the cultural difference between sales and engineering departments. Tribes also operate at different cultural stages, which can positively or negatively impact your results as an organization. A high performing tribe can be three to five times more productive.
How do leaders change their company culture and become a high performing tribe? Like the old joke about eating an elephant, the answer is one bite at a time. The book
Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving OrganizationTribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, is the result of a 10-year study of over 24,000 people. Authors Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright recognized culture strategies failed 70 percent of the time. In their inquiry as to why this occurred, they discovered Peter Drucker’s statement that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” was true.
One of the challenges to cultural change is that it has been difficult to measure and you can’t manage what you don’t measure. We can assess a culture by observing the language people in the tribe use in their everyday conversations. These observations can be classified into five different stages. The study found that the stages form a bell curve, with the majority of workplace tribes at Stage Three. By observing and classifying the people that work for you into these five stages, you will be able to lead them to the next highest level. The impact of moving a tribe up one level is an increase of three to five times in productivity and profits.