As I’ve said in the previous two posts, the Arizona immigration law is highlighting the obsession our country has with our perceived civil rights with little to no acknowledgement of our responsibilities.  Even to the point of extending these civil rights to individuals who are not legal citizens of our country. No matter where you stand, it’s a very interesting dilemma without an easy solution, because our country is the great American melting pot.

I’ve also said that this focus on rights is a characteristic I see on display daily in the family business arena.  One of the parallel features that I see frequently is the need for cultural assimilation. There is much discussion in the business management arena about the importance of the maintenance of a business’ culture.

As in example of this, I’m currently working with a family business in which the father and son have very different personality styles, communication styles, and leadership styles. They are both very successful in their own right, but as they enter into succession planning conflict is arising regarding culture.  Rather than assimilating into the culture that the father has created over many years of running the business, the son has attempted to bring his own ideas to bear in the business.

Now, this is not unusual and frankly, I’d be more concerned if he was not trying to make a difference and I applaud the son for this. However, this is a manufacturing company and the business culture has historically been a “blue collar” type world. The son has an advanced engineering degree from a very prestigious university and, perhaps naturally, among his different ideas, is the desire to bring a more “white collar” environment to the business.  It actually fits with the long-term strategic vision to grow from being a regional player to being a player on the world stage.  But it’s a tough shift at best, and he is certainly not going to be able to make any hairpin turns in changing the culture.

He is learning that he has a responsibility to assimilate to the current culture, and earn the right to be heard, before he can create the culture he desires.  I once heard someone say, “You don’t change culture by changing it. You change it by creating it.“  Creating a new culture takes time and an emphasis on what your responsibilities within that process are. If we only focus on our rights we will spend most of our time being offended and not productive. We will make decisions based upon whether or not something’s offensive, not based upon whether it’s the right decision to achieve the ultimate objective. When everyone focuses on their individual responsibilities, the outcome, interestingly, is that no one is offended, people live in peace and harmony, and they are extremely productive.

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