Good leaders are a bit of corporate anthropologists. In fact, we are all exotics in the payroll. In my idiosyncratic, I accept, view of social sciences, psychology and social psychology are busy with what is seen and said, whilst anthropology is annoyingly curious with what is unseen and unsaid. Leaders can’t afford one without the other, but this is a conversation for another day.
In the Era of The Algorithm, we may just forget the social ones. And they are the fabric of the organizational culture.
Social algorithms are, indeed, the tapestry of the culture, the logic in its idea-logic (ideology), the nuts and bolts of its operating system. I call social algorithms the content of the organization’s rule book that is mostly unwritten.
There are in fact, for me, two types of Social Algorithms: the underground ones and the ones that you as leader are installing, consciously or not. To do the later well, and for good reasons, you need to understand what is going on in the former, in the ‘organization’s underworld’.
At first glance, social algorithms are shy and not completely obvious. Going a bit deeper, some of those rules start to emerge. I have a system to uncover them, but anybody can make the effort to find them. Once this is done, a whole new universe is discovered, and a profound understanding of the organizational culture emerges.
Try to describe them first, imagining situations. It make take a little while to compile a full catalogue. Then, it may start looking like this. Just as an example, as a mixture of underworld and injected
– If A, we always do B
– We never compromise on C
– In doubt, we do D
– E,F and G are non negotiable
– H is always reason for dismissal
– When we reach X, we stop (decision, recruitment)
– If noise is up, we go to source
– The lowest level makes the decision
– We always ask these 3 questions
– From 30 people in 30 days to 3 people in 3 days
– We escalate at Y,Z points
– We ignore N
– We don’t execute straight away, we wait for M
My rule of thumb is that many organizations (as I can see in my clients) work with about 20 of them.
Let’s continue this tomorrow: social algorithms that bypass the standard (more or less) written procedures.