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5 Archetypes of Organizational Culture

According to Freire (2007) there are Five Archetypes of Organizational Culture. Naturally, these cultures are based on, developed and perpetuated by leadership. Those he names:

  • Customer-Centric - The Customer is everything
  • One-Team - Oneness is everything
  • Innovation - Learning is everything
  • Achievement - Getting the job done is everything
  • People-First - Our people are everything

Now at first the One-Team and the People-First look suspiciously similar, however the former has the people sublimating themselves for the organization, and the latter has the opposite.

Customer-Centric Culture

  • CEO spends a lot of time with customers
  • Effective listening is widespread
  • Client issues are part of every meeting
  • Top investments go to client initiatives
  • Untrained staff never put in front of the customer
  • People proudly share stories of exceeding customer expectation
  • Customer feedback integrated into everyone's compensation
  • Those closest to the customers know more about their needs than senior leadership
  • Are you really a humble organization?
  • Are you really a learning organization?
  • Is the relationship based on trust and reliability?
  • Is there arrogance and rejection of feedback?

One-Team Culture

  • Willing to sub-optimize subsystem to optimize overall system
  • Once agree on what is best for the firm, will follow decision
  • Work is done by one group on behalf of the whole
  • Remuneration encourages facilitating the work of others
  • Reporting lines and structures recognize dual-citizenship
  • Move people around through the organization to gain broader perspective
  • Most people have good motives
  • Generosity and sharing, trustworthiness, openness
  • Not territorial or silo mentality
  • Japanese style

Innovation Culture

  • Experimentation, risk taking
  • Experience is valued
  • Resources given to Research and Development
  • Lots of learning processes and meetings
  • A lot of rigorous measurement focused on continuous improvement
  • Curiosity, courage, openness, learning
  • If it isn't broken, break it anyway
  • Not risk averse
  • Shoot for the stars
  • We are not here to count the pens, we are here to change the world

Achievement Culture

  • Culture of accountability
  • Meritocracy, my word is my bond, truthfulness
  • Bottom 10 % needs to go
  • Clarity in communication of goal-setting
  • Healthy confrontation when excuses for nonperformance are given

People-first Culture

  • Encouraging people to grow
  • Give under-performers a second chance
  • Symbols of lack of hierarchy
  • A lot of training, workplace development
  • Believe in diversity, opportunity, trust
  • No distrust
  • Find people the right place in the organization

Organizational Cultural Change is Hard

Organizational change is a huge undertaking, and in many cases simply falls short. I appreciate that Freire says it takes about two years to shift cultural focus of an organization.

Also, though it really doesn't work well, Freire suggests it is possible to build all five cultures into a single organization. A well-rounded organizational culture is a fairly bland culture, but of course each of the types of organizational culture has elements that any decent organization should embrace. It is simply that one type needs to be primary.

But how can leaders change or enhance Organizational Culture?

Leaders Send Messages through Actions

  • How do you as a leader do things
  • Distance between walk and talk
  • What you do says what is important, role meeting
  • How do you run meetings, how much time in meetings are spent focusing on customers, change, etc.
  • Symbols are the calendar and the checkbook
    • Time spent on things shows value
    • Money spent on things shows value
  • Who gets promoted, why, office space
  • Role as storyteller, what are the stories? They show values
  • Planning and budgeting process
  • Compensating people based on achievement, learning, customer
  • What are people rewarded for doing?

Hofstede and Dimensions of Organizational Culture

Freire has a nice set of cultural types but the idea that there are only five types doesn't get at the why, the actual dimensions of organizational culture, and how to measure it. For that, Geert Hofstede is the best source.1


  1. I actually met Hofstede at the University of Hawaii in the mid 2000s. He had a connection with the university in the past, and on occasion would visit and give a lecture or two. He spoke at a seminar and was charming. I've also read in depth both Cultures' Consequences and his research on Organizational Culture and related publications. For a popularization of this academic research, see Cultures and Organizations: Software for the Mind

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Lex Titia – End of the Roman Republic

Movement from a democracy to an autocracy seeks legitimacy in legal and democratic terms. Because the transition is from democracy, there is either implicit or explicit democratic action that is taken to limit or essentially destroy democratic power. This is seen throughout history. Why an autocracy needs such legitimation is mostly an issue of propaganda, but it is universally sought.

The Lex Titia was a law granting the Second Triumvirate power over democratic laws and institutions. Typical means were employed to have such a law passed, mainly control over the military, death sentences on the killers of Julius Caesar (which was extended to political enemies), and of course bribery and intimidation, threats, lies, murder and corruption.

In Juntaland, the same thing applies, but of course at a much smaller scale (excepting the the bribery, intimidation, threats, lies, murder and corruption -- which are indeed first rank). The collusion of a few to effectively be permanently placed above the electorate and their political desires, well, that is where we are now with the draft constitution.

Pericles and Direct Democracy

While representative democracy seems obvious, there have been and still are more direct democracies. This indeed is really what is at stake and how a disdainful military conceives of voting.

Do gardeners working outside of the Parliament’s building or farmers know anything about democracy? Of course not. Don’t talk to me about citizenry. Those people only go to vote because they were paid. -- Prayuth Chan-ocha, 01 January 2016

Indeed, gardeners and farmers do know about democracy, in ways the so-called Prime Minister does not, though that should be obvious since the military is the one who subverts democracy every few years. The military may accuse the electorate of venality (even though demonstrably untrue), yet they are the ones who are disenfranchising the electorate, and at the same time running roughshod over human rights and denying individuals and communities their self-determination.

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Cuba and the Mother of Invention

Necessity being the mother of invention, what if a densely populated, but small (~10m) country were to have zero access to petroleum for fertilizer and agriculture in general? Sustailable Agriculture would be a result (or starvation). - What if Sustainable Agriculture Weren't Theoretical? The Case of Cuba - Cuba's Agrifood System in Transition - How to make prosperous and sustainable family farming in Cuba a reality

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Construction Innovation

The saddest part of the discussion of construction innovation as defined by making buildings more efficiently, is just that. Missing are: - Making housing more sustainable (see Earthships) - Making housing more affordable (see tiny homes in Kristen Dirksen's channel)

Mainstream Media Housing Innovation Coverate

Emergent Thoughts

  • If Earthships could be built in a factory...
  • If Tiny Homes could use less land (become multi-story without losing their soul)...
  • If vertical gardens and other greenery were an embedded part of the discussion...
  • If a living wage were integrated into housing and permaculture...
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Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

The book is "Sapiens" and it is all about humans. Fascinating and eye-opening, it provides enormous perspective for us humans today.

I agree that there are things to disagree with in the book (my Kindle version is littered with notes where he is wrong, or possibly wrong) but the sweep and the general outlines of his presentation of history is breathtaking, thought-provoking, and wry.

Many criticisms of him are fair, but usually dealing with some detail here or there, or his sometimes dismissive tone is an afront to those who have spent academic careers living with minutiae, say, of religious traditions. Definitely the idea that the cognitive revolution was a revolution, all at once, and only for Sapiens, has evidence against it, just as the scientific revolution has. (And we still use the term Scientific Revolution in useful ways.)

Still, the broad path of the narrative and historical paths he treads are so thought-provoking (and in many cases he is correct in important and novel ways).

Book Reviews of Sapiens

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Mars, Musk, and the BFR

I watched most of the latest long video presentation done in Australia a few days ago, which is 90% boring, and 10% mind-blowing. The main point is that they are going to focus on BFR which is way bigger than Falcon Heavy. Techcrunch has more details on the project.

Mars Launch Dates

Note that the manned launches to Mars will be in 2024, with unmanned in 2022. Also, the precision they have with the engines for recovery landing will be able to match commercial airline landing success rates, and essentially land the rockets back on their launching pads. It's all pretty awesome at this point.

Falcon Heavy and BFR Capacity and Routes

Falcon Heavy which will launch next year can put 30 tons into low earth orbit, and BFR will do 150 tons. Oh, and BFR will be able to do Moon landings and relaunches. Regarding the cost of using BFR for Earth-to-Earth destinations, cost for a seat on the Earth BFR express should be about the same as full fare economy on most airlines today (via TechCrunch).

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Work Hard, Have Fun, Make History

Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs have similar insights when it comes to hiring the best. This is equally relevant when one is building a school. Hire the best teachers possible, if you want a high-performing school.

Three Questions When Making a Hiring Decision

From the 1998 Amazon Shareholder Letter: It would be impossible to produce results in an environment as dynamic as the Internet without extraordinary people. Working to create a little bit of history isn't supposed to be easy, and, well, we're finding that things are as they're supposed to be! We now have a team of 2,100 smart, hard-working, passionate folks who put customers first. Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com's success. During our hiring meetings, we ask people to consider three questions before making a decision: - Will you admire this person? If you think about the people you've admired in your life, they are probably people you've been able to learn from or take an example from. For myself, I've always tried hard to work only with people I admire, and I encourage folks here to be just as demanding. Life is definitely too short to do otherwise. - Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they're entering? We want to fight entropy. The bar has to continuously go up. I ask people to visualize the company 5 years from now. At that point, each of us should look around and say, The standards are so high now -- boy, I'm glad I got in when I did! - Along what dimension might this person be a superstar? Many people have unique skills, interests, and perspectives that enrich the work environment for all of us. It's often something that’s not even related to their jobs.

Steve Jobs on Hiring Truly Gifted People

> In Software, and it used to be the case in Hardware, the difference between the average and the best is 50 to 1, maybe 100 to one.... > > I've built a lot of my success off finding these truly gifted people, and not settling for B and C players, but really going for the A players. And I found that when you get these A players together, when you go through this incredible work to find these A players, they really like working with each other becuase they've never had a chance to do that before. And they don't want to work with B and C players, and so it becomes self-policing, and they only want to hire more A players. And so you build up these pockets of A players and it propagates.

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EU-Vietnam Free Trade Area (EVFTA)

The EU-Vietnam Trade Treaty is still under discussion regarding the implementation details as of early 2017, due to the complexity and the level of reform needed to implement it on the Vietnamese side. Negotiation concluded on 02 December 2016, and the treaty will take force in 2018. The EVFTA is just one of a number of initiatives and opportunities for FDI in Vietnam in 2017 and beyond.

EVFTA in the wake of TPP, Reforms Needed

The failure of the TPP has moved more focus onto the EVFTA as a driver of foreign direct investment into Vietnam. Still, major policy and institutional reform is needed to make the EVFTA a success, which would see the EU almost completely available as free trade area for Vietnamese products, as well as making European products and capital available to Vietnam. Eurocham has highlighted significant benefits for both Europe and Vietnam: > Under the EVFTA, the EU is committed to removing 84 percent of tariffs on goods traded between the two economies, which Behrens says is a huge opportunity for Vietnamese goods to penetrate deeper into the European market, particularly export staples such as pepper, coffee, textiles, and footwear products. > > On the other hand, he noted, European merchandise, including wines, frozen pork, milk, and medicines will also have greater access to the Vietnamese market thanks to the corresponding tariff removal. > > Asked to compare the benefits the EVFTA and the TPP may bring to Vietnam, Behrens said the EU agreement is expected to contribute seven to eight percent to Vietnam’s overall growth on an annual basis. > > Citing results from recent research conducted in Hanoi, Behrens added that Vietnam is expected to rake in $2.2 billion worth of gains in welfare from the trade pact by 2020, and $4.1 billion by 2025. > > The EVFTA will also help increase wages for unskilled Vietnamese workers by 3 percent due to changing market dynamics and enable a 50 percent spike in Vietnam’s exports to the EU by 2020. Vietnam’s imports from the EU are also projected to rise 43 percent by 2020, he noted.

RCEP, ASEAN and Beyond

Beyond the EVFTA, there is the primary neighbor bloc of the other nine ASEAN members, as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) includes Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. Regarding RCEP, there should be some opportunities in this somewhat unweildy but extremely large market (spanning nearly half the worlds' population and 30% of GDP). Vietnam has an opportunity to act as a corridor from ASEAN (and RCEP) to the EU based on the EVFTA. Similar trade agreements have been concluded between the EU and South Korea and also the EU and Singapore.

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Amazon Customers, Markets, Resources

Amazon is different than other companies. From the outside, this difference can appear as anomolies, odd things that stand out. I belive that there is a fundamental way of understanding the current state and dynamo of change within Amazon.

Customer Centrism

Amazon is meant to be the most customer-centric company on Earth. Likely when we get to Mars, Amazon will need to change that to the Solar System. However, it is not customer-centric in all ways. User interfaces and documentation are a huge challenge that many competitors excel. Even on the issue of price, there are various options that are generally cheaper, or as cheap, such as ebay. This is where things like free shipping and very fast delivery come into play. Bundling digital and physical goods (to sell more physical goods) is a good tactic, as digital goods have low incremental cost of sales. If this locks in a customer who will pay in excess of the margin on digital goods, that is an increase in profit, a happier customer, and an increase in trust and mindshare. But in some cases prices are still poor in relation to the competition. In these cases, it seems clear that (unless we are talking about overlooked anomolies) there are other factors at work.

Resource Centrism

Most organizations have fewer resources than they could use (though that is not correct unless there are appropriate mechanisms for management and leadership). Customer centrism can always be a focus, but of course it will be constrained in terms of resources available. In order to understand customer centrism, there should be two aspects: improvement (which might be called innovation) and listening/understanding (which might be called communication, more generally). Since communication actually informs improvement/innovation, that part is primary (and we see that in the generally lightning-fast reaction times to customer requests. However, this can be somewhat annoying as small things require a request to customer service, rather than being fixed in the interface. However, again, this is brilliant management as those issues which generate the most support calls, or have a greater impact on sales and customer satisfaction, will get the priority for engineering resources. Given enough computing power and good data, prioritization of product development and maintenance could potentially be done by the Amazon computer brain.

Market Centrism

This idea of markets as driving optimal resource allocation is rife throughout the company, and the ability to participate in these markets externally (essentially the core of ecommerce) is invigorating. Some examples:

Amazon Vendor Programs

Amazon has multiple vendor programs, from the original affiliate program and the amazon advantage (for media companies) to the Amazon Seller Central program, there are many ways to interact in the Amazon marketplace. Shipping/delivery is an area that has become increasingly varied with options for vendor fulfillment, fulfillment by Amazon, and in some cases Amazon Prime fulfillment by the vendor.

Amazon Web Services

AWS has itself also evolved over the years, and the fundamental resource of computing, storage, and networking has become sliced and diced into a variety of offerings. EC2 is the basic VPS options with some levels of resiliency. Next came the Elastic Beanstalk, which takes care of much of the provisioning in dealing with scaling stateless services. Third is Lambda which is serverless computing (it simply executes the code without any server management/configuration).

Amazon Hardware - Kindle, Fire

Amazon hardware has also gone through many iterations and includes variety in the offerings. This is akin to a normal product line, and line extensions, though sometimes the level of innovative is category-defining. The Kindle ebook reader, while certainly not the first, has become dominant for good reason. The Fire TV and Fire TV Stick has largely beaten out the Chromecast. And most recently Alexa on the Echo and Echo View.

Software + Hardware + Logistics

The fundamental skills underlying Amazon are several, but building and maintaining software, designing and managing hardware (different kinds, from a handheld device to server farms), and logistics, especially distribution/shipping/delivery. Expect innovation around each of these fairly complex, and difficult alignment of the two sets of three pillars of expertise and practical, valuable knowledge.