Culture and values of any place are in its living stories, not in manuals or wall hangings

Culture and values of any place are in its living stories

I had joined HMT watch plant in Nainital in 1989. Amongst many stories, there was one of a production supervisor, who was caught at the security gate at the end of the shift with 11 paisa worth of industrial salt in his front pocket. It was not of his personal use and may have fallen in his pocket inadvertently. But, since he had been caught at the gate during security check at the time of shift going out, there was no escape from punishment, and he was sacked. Over time, people would not remember his name and what happened to him afterwards.

But this story had become a part of the folklore and the message had stuck- no matter what circumstances and innocence, there was no way one could hope to continue in the job at HMT Nainital, if one was caught in stealing anything from the factory, even if the intention was not to steal, and it was a genuine mistake.

Culture of an organization, or even a family, comprises these stories. If one wants to build or rebuild culture, all one has to do is to pick up stories from day to day working lives of its members, that may underline some message of the way “things work here”, document and propagate across the organization. However, it must be representative of “the way things are done here” rather than contrary to widely held perceptions. Else, these stories can be used to underscore and demonstrate “how things should be done here” and recognize and reward such behavior, until it gets institutionalized.

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