Listen to your company culture

The plastic cup falls into its holder. It is followed by the equivalent of a spoonful of sugar. Then a dark liquid. And finally a plastic stick.

Seen today, that’s a lot of plastic.

The coffee is not too bad. You just have to blow on it a bit.

I think it will probably be the first of many hundreds of coffees in this very machine.

It’s almost a milestone. It’s the first time I’ve had coffee in my first official job.

Meanwhile Ramon, the head of the development department, brings me up to date on what I need to know about my first company, which I have just joined after finishing my degree in computer science.

“And, when the big boss of the department shows up, remember that you always, always, always have to answer ‘All good’. No matter what he asks. Always ‘All good’.”

I make a mental note of this and over the next few weeks when, very occasionally, the Head of Department (in capital letters) passes by, if he asks me “How’s it going?” I always reply “All good”.

I don’t have to lie or hide anything either.

It’s really going well.

I learn and put what I learn into practice.


So a few days and a few weeks go by and the ritual is repeated.

“How is everything going?”

“All good”.

Until, one certain day, the boss shows up around 11am (his hours are very strange, but of course, he’s the boss) and I’m concentrating on trying to reprocess some failed night reports.

So the boss asks

“How’s it going?”

And I reply

“Buff, still trying to fix this thing that went wrong tonight.”

As I say it I realise I’ve made a mistake.

I said “went wrong”.

Immediately I see all my colleagues turn to me with wide eyes.

And then your eyes go back to your monitors.

But it’s already too late.

“What do you mean ‘went wrong’? What happened? Come to my office!”

So I go to his office and explain to him what has happened, that it’s not that serious and that we’re already sorting it out but that the reports take time.

Without knowing how he picks up the phone and calls the person in charge of my team. He comes right away.

“How did this happen?

“Well… one of the processes has run out of disk space and has been interrupted.”

And he picks up the phone again and calls the head of the Systems area.

How did we run out of space on the disk?

“Well… The monthly processes have coincided and this month there were quite a few changes so…”

The truth is that it made little sense. It was a one-off problem, it was under control and in the process of being solved. The users were also informed. We had already discussed it among those involved and it was only a matter of time before it was solved.

When, after 50 minutes, we managed to escape the interrogation room, I mean the Chief’s office, the processes had been completed. All that’s left for me to do is to inform the users that they can now access their reports.

And then I can take a lime tea in the fabulous machine.

The lesson: Whatever the boss says, “All good”.

I’m not saying that this lesson applies to all companies. In other companies it can be very bad advice.

The real lesson: Listen to your company culture.

Everyone has a role to play. Some people are there to solve problems. Some people are there to be bosses. Good bosses help avoid future problems. Good colleagues know how to find ways to avoid the problems that not-so-good bosses create.

When you are new to a company, observe and listen. Whether you are a boss, an employee or a passing consultant. You will quickly understand the role of each and which are the people you can rely on and which are the people you have to deal with in a way that generates as few problems as possible.

Especially if your mission is to change things, call it improving productivity, introducing new tools, innovating, … you have to understand people, their reasons and their relationships.

No matter how good the change, the tool, the innovation is. If you don’t understand the people, their reasons and their relationships, you are very likely to fail.

It doesn’t mean that you have to negotiate everything and please everyone. But ill-considered change can have many enemies.

If you have to change, improve, modernise, transform, digitise and you want to approach it minimising friction and confrontation to get the best out of it, contact me here and we can talk about it.