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Posted By Ted Baumhauer
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Right now, where you work, there is an invisible force controlling your department and organization. It’s invisible and yet everyone knows about it. Sometimes its effects are vital and important to your organizations success. At other times though, it has a negative effect. When it has a positive effect it might be talked about but when its impact is negative rarely is it discussed. 
What in the world is it? Group Norms! Every group has them and they develop almost overnight. In a graduate class I taught this past summer the group established the first night where they sat and how the chairs were aligned in theater style. They expected me by this arrangement to come in and lecture to them from the front of the class. Every Tuesday and every Thursday I would enter the room and ask them to rearrange their seats into a circle. This norm was so strong that in 12 classes I could not break it! We even talked about it. 
What are some of the norms in your workplace? Which ones help your group? Which ones get in the way? Have they ever been talked about in a meeting? For example why is it that we do …..? There have been times that I’ve asked these type of questions and been pressured to stop. There can be a lot of peer pressure to leave things the way they are and to not pursue why. Sometimes I must admit I’ve bowed to the pressure but sometimes I dug deeper to figure it out. On more than one occasion I’ve found a process that was out dated and changed it. In every instance the change increased our productivity and effectiveness. 
Who’s questioning the norms where you work?  Do you? Does anyone? How are they treated when they do question current practices? Leaders question those comfortable norms and practices and get more out of their groups.
What is a norm where you work that you really don’t understand? 
 

 

 
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Ted Baumhauer
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