Posted by: Tony Shannon | December 30, 2014

Culture: Change / Number 1

At one of those quiet times of the year, when reflecting on the year past and the year ahead, one key issue stands ahead for 2015 and it surrounds the word “culture”.

When younger and in the midst of a largely scientific training it occurred to me that this word “culture”, given mention every so often, hailed from the arts field and the softer side of life so wasn’t relevant or applicable … at the time. As the years go by and as ones work evolves and involves change at any level this word “culture” just keeps coming back.. it seems key to understanding the past and unlocking the future.

To explain .. am thinking of the word “culture” in the context of;

My local community,  how we may /may not make progress with change as we begin to explore establishing a 10 year vision for the area. What are the cultural issues and values that are important to this community, what does it want to promote and support.?

My home city Dublin and country Ireland, which is in the midst of a decade of commemoration of those key events a century ago.
While the world is working to learn from the lessons of the “War to end all Wars” of 1914 -1918, Ireland is in the midst of a “decade of centenaries” and soon to begin commemorating 100 years since its landmark moves to independence began in 1916…
As part of that reflection and in the context of a nation that some say has “lost its way” and needs to redefine its place and purpose in the world, the country could/should begin a period of self examination of its culture.. what it means to be a citizen.. what rights and responsibilities do we have.. how can we make a change that makes society and the nation a better place?
Thankfully a related Peoples Conversation has begun as a means to foster that important Big Conversation about the meaning of citizenship, which is surely an important key to the future and a route to the cultural change that is now needed across society.

My own profession, the medical profession, which is under a form of real strain..almost its’ own “doctor crisis“, as healthcare stresses under increasing pressure internationally. What does it mean to be a physician in the 21st Century, how can the profession leads on healthcare reforms that are needed rather than simply guard its own interests?
Many challenges abound.. how can we do more with less, how can we manage expectations, how can we treat patients with dignity but not “medicalise” their last months, weeks, days, hours? how can we offer a fair, equitable and quality service for all?

Here too the important culture issue is raised.. how can one effect change in healthcare… the medical profession is renowned more for its conservative culture than its ability to innovate and lead change. Patients expectations have rightly increased yet when things go wrong a “compensation culture” exacerbates the strain rather than helping with shared partnership and decision making required to progress. So some form of culture change seems required to make progress..

My own work.. in frectal .. promoting and supporting medical leadership, process improvement amidst complexity and work towards an open platform to support the transformation of 21st Century Healthcare. How can any individual hope to impact on these significant challenges when major cultural challenges abound?

In each and every one of these spheres of interest.. the word “culture” seems to come increasingly to the fore.

How can one person help themselves , work with colleagues around them, towards common goals for the common good? So often the process of change, the information, the technology elements all come up against one key challenge.. understanding people and leading, driving and supporting cultural change?

How to define “Culture”?

“the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society”
.. is one of many definitions.

How to change “Culture”?

As I’ve read elsewhere culture is a bit like the weather, you can see it feel it but its can’t necessarily grasp it and it very hard to control it.. a complex thing..

So my New Years resolution for 2015 is to continue to study & understand & work on this issue even more than before.
Its perhaps the #1 change challenge; Influencing People & Impacting their Culture.

All change has to begin with number 1.



  1. […] My first blog of 2015 mentioned a word that is key to all change – culture. […]

  2. […] My first blog of 2015 mentioned a word that is key to all change – culture. […]

  3. […] My first blog of 2015 mentioned a word that is key to all change – culture. […]

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