Rosa Parks and customs

Sixty-two years ago today, Rosa Parks, an activist in the US Civil Rights Movement, refused to give up her seat in the “colored” section of a city bus. She was arrested, despite the fact that she had not violated any laws. What she refused to comply with was a custom that had developed over time, where bus drivers made black passengers move, stand or disembark to make room for white passengers when the white section became full. This custom was so ingrained in the city of Montgomery that when Parks asked the arresting officer why she was being removed, he told her “The law’s the law.”

That is the power of a custom. So strong that people take it as law.

And that is the power of organizational culture. Those rules that we follow at work, whether or not they are written. Whether or not they are legal. The outcome of the masses adopting behaviors by consensus.

A good culture can propel the organization at the top of the heap and benefits everyone. A bad culture might benefit a few but creates a drag on the entire organization.

Every bad culture deserves a counter-movement. Every movement needs a Rosa Parks.

See anything you can fix today?

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