Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

Communication is essential in a healthy organization. But all too often when we interact with people—especially those who report to us—we simply tell them what we think they need to know. This shuts them down. To generate bold new ideas, to avoid disastrous mistakes, to develop agility and flexibility, we need to practice Humble Inquiry.

Ed Schein defines Humble Inquiry as “the fine art of drawing … [ Read more ]

Edgar Schein

Culture is the outcome of the shared experiences arising out of an organization’s attempts to resolve fundamental problems of adapting to the external world and achieving internal integration and consistency.

Edgar Schein

Culture is multifaceted, and every company has many subcultures. At the top, there might be an executive subculture, trained in finance, which wants good numbers above all else. There’s also probably an engineering subculture, which assumes that crises can be prevented only with fail-safe, redundant systems that kick in automatically. There are other subcultures for middle management, supervisors, the union, and marketing. Every company combines … [ Read more ]

Helping: An Urgent New Role for Leaders

Leaders are increasingly finding themselves in situations where they need help from subordinates, and in which subordinates are asking for help in areas where leaders are not experts. To manage either situation effectively, a leader will have to develop a degree of humility and specific process skills. Readers will learn how to achieve those difficult goals in this article by the dean of organizational behavior. … [ Read more ]

Edgar H. Schein

The metaphor of social theater comes into play in that the leader has a choice of what role to play once he or she is thrust into a helping situation. There are three possible roles: 1) The leader can be an “expert” who provides information, actually does the job for the subordinate, or in other ways displays superior knowledge or skill; 2) The leader can … [ Read more ]

Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help

In this seminal book on helping, corporate culture and organizational development guru Ed Schein analyzes the dynamics of helping relationships, explains why help is often not helpful, and shows what any would-be-helper must do to insure that help is actually provided.

Many words are used for helping — assisting, aiding, advising, coaching, consulting, counseling, supporting, teaching, and many more — but they all have common dynamics … [ Read more ]

Understanding the Human System

Understanding human systems requires looking from many angles. Based on his 50 years of research into organizational dynamics, the author describes some useful approaches.

Edgar H Schein

Change must be distinguished from “new learning” in that it implies some unlearning that is intrinsically difficult and often painful. Motivation to change does not arise until the change target feels secure enough to accept the disconfirming data. The change target feels “psychologically safe” if he or she can accept a new attitude or value without complete loss of self.

Once the individual feels safe, he … [ Read more ]

Edgar H Schein

The degree to which individuals are subject to outside influences is a function of their freedom to move, which in the case of career influences, depends very much on the labor market. In the study of coercive persuasion I learned how powerful the group can be. But in an open society I learned that individuals are equally powerful, if they can choose their own settings. … [ Read more ]

Organizational Culture and Leadership

In this third edition of his classic book, Edgar Schein shows how to transform the abstract concept of culture into a practical tool that managers and students can use to understand the dynamics of organizations and change. Organizational pioneer Schein updates his influential understanding of culture–what it is, how it is created, how it evolves, and how it can be changed. Focusing on today’s business … [ Read more ]

The Corporate Culture Survival Guide

Culture. We blithely use the term for just about anything–a vibrant culture, a dominant culture, a corporate culture. But do we really know what we’re saying, what culture really means? Or do we most often assume that the term is just a convenient way to group those with a common purpose or goal and a method for achieving it? Isn’t a corporate culture, for example, … [ Read more ]