Guns in America: A metaphor for your organization’s culture

I watched all 12+ minutes of President Obama’s speech on the shooting in Oregon. The only thing I disagree with (and this is a nuance) is that it’s a “political choice”. Nope. It’s a cultural choice. One of my favorite quotes is “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Peter Drucker). Politics — using the strategy of changing laws to attempt to deliver a desired result — will ONLY be driven by a change in culture. I think he addressed that in a roundabout way, and his evident emotion and sickness at heart push us toward a question: do we desire cultural change in this area? I have to say this is the best speech I’ve ever heard him give. It’s been a long time since he really inspired me. Thanks, Obama. No… wait. Seriously. Thank you, Mr. President Obama, for reminding us that we should be upset by this, that we should not accept it as routine. (Why has it become routine that when we thank our President the initial assumption is that we’re being sarcastic? — Er, that’s for another blog another day.)

I don’t have answers for gun laws. I hope that people want change. Strategy could go through a variety of iterations before we get it right, but we won’t even really begin to try until there’s a fundamental, tectonic shift in the culture, where the geological plates in the culture shift away from conflict, and instead of those plates shoving against each other, one side shoving guns and violence up on a pedestal high as the Rockies, they shift back (so that “Every mountain shall be made low”) to a great, smooth plains, a place of reasoning together whether we own a gun or not. We have allowed something to sell us an idea of liberty in the place of safety, and we have eaten the meal and the after-dinner mint is … sour.

We all have things in the culture of our organization/workplace/field which have become routine but aren’t right. Thank God they don’t have literal, physical casualties. However, they can have pretty long-lasting impact on a lot of people, they can end up sending people away, leaving them spiritually or emotionally battered and bloody, and why? Because we want to hang on to some old way of thinking, some pattern that is getting justified the same way some say “well, we need more guns to protect us from bad guys with guns!” (We have forgotten that Jesus said “only God is good” and so in our cultural mindset we are ALWAYS the good guys).

For myself, this came to a head in a particular area in the culture of my family. Seven years of lean thinking put us in a position where we have the same issue and struggle every few months. Like the President said, unless something changes, history tells him he’s going to have to go make a similar statement about grieving families before his tenure is up. Same thing in our culture.

Change the rules all you want: if the culture doesn’t change at a more fundamental level, you’re just shifting stuff around, shifting blame, most likely.

So with our situation, we went outside and placed stones of remembrance in the yard. We marked those seven years of lean thinking and prayed. We drew a line in the sand in some way, spiritually, culturally, and I am ready to make changes so that I don’t have to go back to the podium again and say, well, 2016 has been the 8th lean year … No. It’s time for a fat one. It’s time to recognize that the issue has been cultural, and at least in this family I set 50% of the cultural tone. I’m the one who gets to change. I’m the one who has to step back and allow the valleys to be exulted and the hills made low, so that the Glory of the Lord can shine among us.