7 Unwritten Rules which Determine an Organizational DNA

The unwritten organizational rules are just as, if not more, important than the written rules. I wrote about this idea HERE.

If you are considering making changes, implementing something new, adding staff, for example, you need to also consider these unwritten organizational rules.

7 examples of unwritten rules:

The culture

How does it responds to change? In what ways does it addresses problems? How does it plans for the future? Is leadership trusted? These are all unique to any organization.

The leader’s accessibility and temperament

Every senior leader is different. If you change the leader you change some of the unwritten rules. Is he or she considered approachable? Does he or she participate with the team normally? Would he or she know if there was a perceived problem in the organization? Do team members trust leadership?

These answers shape responses to change.

The relationships of team members to each other

Is there a friendship or just a working relationship among team members? Is conflict acceptable and healthy? Do team members feel freedom to speak freely when in disagreement? Is respect o given to everyone? Do silos exist or is there a common vision everyone is working to achieve?

The healthiest organizations have people working together who genuinely like one another. Therefore, if that isn’t there, change will be more difficult.

The sense of work satisfaction

Are there long-term team members? Are team members generally happy with the organization? Is there any unrest among team members? Are there unspoken concerns within the organization?

Many times this has been formed over the years, sometimes even before a leader has been in the position. So, this is valuable information for any leader.

The natural reaction to change

Is the “way it’s always been done” changeable? Has change usually been accepted or resisted? Who has to initiate change? What is the anticipated speed of change? Who needs to know about it?

The success of change will be directly related to the answers to these questions and the way a leader responds to them.

The way information flows

How does communication really happen? What are the circles of influence? Who drives discussion? Who has influence with peers? What are the expectations regarding the “need to know”?

Communication is key in any organization so, as leaders, we must understand the way it occurs.

The real power structure

Who really makes the decisions? Is it a board? A few key people? A consensus of the largest percentage of people? Power structures are rarely as purely formed as what is written on a piece of paper. Knowing this is critical to navigating change.

As a leader, it’s important to not solely concentrate on what is easily measured, written in a policy manual, or even spoken as a value. Other considerations may be more important, even though they may have never been expressed formally.

Consequently, when change is to be implemented, paying attention to unwritten rules is necessary for success.

By the way leaders, most likely you helped write (or are helping to write) these unwritten rules.

What are some of the unwritten rules of your organization?

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, so subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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