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The Geometry of Character and Culture

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The Three C’s

These distinctions to be drawn between mood and character and between climate and culture are not just interesting for those doing psychological research and clinical assessments, they are also important for a professional coach to keep in mind when working over an extended period of time with a client. The three C’s can be a key to effective organizational intervention: Coaching, Character and Culture.

Don’t try to change character or culture. Rather, help your client figure out how they can take advantage of the character or culture and how the strengths inherent in character and culture can be used in an appropriate manner – and how these strengths can be overused or used in an inappropriate manner.

In seeking to make sense of the ways in which to surface and address the tacitly held dimensions of character and culture, I am reminded of a distinction that is sometimes drawn in the field of mathematics between the domains of mathematical analysis, algebra and geometry. While analysis primarily concerns the nature of change, algebra deals with the nature of structure, and geometry deals with the nature of shape.

The SPA Model

These domains, in turn, brought to mind the distinction that Goodwin Watson (Watson and Johnson, 1972) drew many years ago between the three dimensions through which we can influence the functioning of organizations and societies: (1) structure (S), (2) process (P) and (3) attitude (A). The first dimension (structure) contains the formal elements of an organization: the organization chart and reporting relationships, buildings, technologies, official strategic plans, etc. The structures are visible and can readily be articulated. They are the stable, enduring “snap shots” of the organization.

The second dimension (process) contains the ongoing way in which people inside the organizational structure operate. This dimension is vest conveyed not through a static snapshot, but rather through a movie that documents the behaviors taking place. The process dimension includes behaviors related to such critical organizational functions as problem-solving, conflict-management and decision-making.

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