Culture is Key

Culture is central to doctrine. Doctrine determines strategic worth and how we will engage with others – it determines our “brand”. Brand shows leadership to the world.

At its core, Doctrine tells us how to behave and what is and is not acceptable in a given situation. It represents the rules we live by. And doctrine can help us figure out how to engage when we don’t know how to do something or relate to something. So, Doctrine sets the limits – positive and negative – for engagement. And when someone goes above and beyond the expectations of Doctrine, we see them as a hero – and often promote them to positions of leadership.

So there is more to Doctrine than than rules – it is in many ways an expression of leadership. It represents leaders’ expectations and the limits leadership puts on what they will or will not accept in an organization.

You see, Doctrine is made up of 3 sub-elements: values, identity, and culture. And these three elements together are the core of any brand – personal, organization. or national. And “Brand” is how we show the world who we are and what is important to us.

But how do these three components work together?

First lets quickly review each.

Identity is the I of our existence. It represents the different components of our organization. It describes who we are in relation to others. Sometimes, unfortunately more often than we like to admit, a great deal of our identity is not about an internal I but instead focuses on what we are not – as in we are not like “them.” And identity determines who is involved in the different fields our organization touches. Identity is the royal “We” that takes in all of the organizations different parts and pieces.

Values, on the other hand, determine why we do thing the way we do. They act as the basis for our belief system and set limits on acceptable action for the different parts or our identity. They help determine the functions by which we can explain the choices we are making. And values present us with the moral and ethical basis for any choice we will make or action we will take.

culture – the frame through which we understand the interaction or task. And how we set the nature of our I and how we will express ourselves to the world around us. If identity is the doer of Doctrine, and values are they why of Doctrine, culture is how we behave of Doctrine.

It is not enough to discuss Identity when trying to tell the story of a brand. You cannot really tell a story about your identity. You can explain who you are, maybe where you come from, and who is involved in the work you do. But you cannot tell me a deep engaging story about why you do what you do or how you engage and behave as a result.

Values, or even values and identity, alone are not enough either. A story about values will not provide us context and understanding of the story, only why you exist and what you believe is important in your world. It will provide excellent depth to your identity, why you may or may not take specific actions, and give a sense of the limits you put on your interactions.

But culture, culture provides the context for understanding how your identity and values come together as a story about how you choose to engage with your world. Culture, especially organizational culture, establishes an underlying story about who “we” are and what we represent, and how we have chosen to create and focus the use of our time and energy.