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  • Writer's pictureAnushruti

Marble or Clay? Sculpting an organization culture

Another weekend arrived. Amidst the mundane dinner conversations about how some batchmate landed a job in his dream company, the question emerged- how is the ‘dream’ label earned by an organization? Popular callout was ‘culture’.

Got me thinking, who defines the organization culture? It certainly isn’t an accident!

Does it emerge from the people? Or is the tone set from top? If it emerges from people, then isn’t it ever evolving?

Post a lot of mental debate, I attempted to give structure to my thoughts around possibilities.

I think culture can either be carved like a ‘marble sculpture’ or put together like a ‘clay sculpture’.

‘Marble sculpture’ starts with a broad block of marble and then carving it down to the end-product. Essentially, you decide on what you want the organization ethos to be and hammer down the block of marble (organization) to take the desired shape. Then all you do post that, is to clean and maintain the shape over years.

‘Clay sculpture’ on the other hand has a core around which pieces of clay are placed and molded to give a final output. Think of it as a critical mass of people who defined the initial culture when the journey begins. Then with years of addition, new individuals add to the design in their own unique ways, giving it a new shape. In essence, an ever-evolving one.

So now, what we identify as one of the most important traits in choosing our employers- ‘the culture’, Would we want it to be consistent like a marble piece or self-organizing like a clay piece?

The way I see it, is that it depends on the stage the organization is in. For a large organization, having learned its purpose and identified the ways of working which helps attain the purpose, simply needs to find ways to incentivize people to retain the shape of marble. Marble sculpting is a subtractive process but super-efficient for growing organizations, as it ensures the core does not transform. Whereas a younger organization, still discovering its calling, might benefit from individualities of the people working together to shape and transform the ways of working, just like clay.

Therefore, when we choose the organization, we should know what we are in for. What can be transformed and what we can adapt to.

And lastly, one can always argue that that culture need not ever reach a stable destination. It may remain as something that is plural, overlapping, and dynamic. P.S: Let that be a view for another blog!

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Jan 02, 2023

Excellent overview and narration !!

Jan 02, 2023
Replying to

Glad you liked it.

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