What are the physical manifestations of your team culture?

Yesterday I was at Australian Technology Park, Sydney’s original rail works converted to center for technology and innovation whilst maintaining historical buildings and features. What struck me was the men’s urinal placed outside against a very public wall. Walking past this historical feature I reflected on how such a physical object (in the era of the sites operation as a rail works) would be a physical manifestation of the male macho culture rail works where known for. Thinking that the culture would have tried to changed in the last years of the sites operation during the 1970/80′s, yet physical manifestations such as this would have maintained the cultural status quo, no matter how much the workplace was trying to evolve with the modern times.

This thought lead me to reflect on what are the physical manifestations of my teams culture?:

  • We have a pin board with a photo collage of past and present team members. This is a representation of how we value our team members, both past and present.
  • We only keep equipment and resources that are working, current, used and of value to student learning. This establishes that we don’t keep (physically or ideologically) what no longer works or will not be used.
  • We have quality second hand furniture set out in a way that maximises the use of space. This models space as a technology, but also that education is about the effective use of scarce resources.
  • Every team members has tablet and laptop. This empowers anywhere anytime technology and communication defining the culture of communication and collaboration.
  • We only have posters, picture or signs that are positive and relate to learning (excluding statutory WH&S, etc posters). This sets the positive educationally focused tone for the team.
  • We have a defined collaboration space within our professional space that is not owned by anyone. This ensures that collaboration isn’t just talked about but enabled to happen.

“If you don’t define your team culture, it will define you!”

Negative physical manifestations of team culture educational leaders should be more aware off:

  • Negative de-motivational posters like this or this anywhere in professional spaces. Don’t just remove the posters, remove cause and cultures that drive the thinking behind such bill posts.
  • A lack of spaces for professional collaboration. How can we talk about collaboration if we don’t provide suitable spaces to enable it.
  • Hording resources and equipment beyond their useful life. How can we expect our team to adopt new pedagogies, ideas and cultures if we model the inability to let go of the old.
  • Sterile spaces, in search of looking innovative (other extreme of hording). Always remember humans live here, clean white spaces are pretty in “Good Homes Magazine” but they don’t encourage use.

“If your physical manifestations don’t match your team culture, or if your team culture doesn’t match your physical manifestations, it might not actually be the team culture…”

3 thoughts on “What are the physical manifestations of your team culture?

  1. Relevant post. I have been looking at some of these ideas over the last few years and they can be hard to shift, but worth the effort. Bottom up tinkering with meeting culture is another manifestation of physical space. I suggested moving our exec. meetings from out of the ‘interview’ room behind closed doors into the more open space of the staff room (which has four entry points and is high traffic), it was taken up and has expanded into a more open leadership group not just limited to ‘execs’ which in turn operates more transparently. I also had a dead space in the hall converted into a living contribution wall and networking point through ‘ideapaint’ where all have a say or option. You will also open up opportunities for demotivational scribblings here too, but as they are ephemeral (whiteboard marker) they can be addressed through energy and challenge the team to overcome them. Any venting becomes a spot check of mood (transitory not pinned poster) enabling better evolution of culture. Humour and ideas can drive the discourse here too. It becomes a physical manifestation of a very localized feed, you can see what’s about and deal with it positively.

  2. Hmmmm. I know it is the great catchcry to get with it and create ’21st Century Learners’ and ’21st Century Learning Spaces’ but sometimes one can throw the ‘baby out with the bathwater’ and there is value in the past. I am not advocating a resistance to tech here, and I love to use technology in my classrooms, and indeed it is my current job to encourage and assist other teachers to do so too.
    However, I was horrified when our previously very workable computer lab was turned overnight into an ‘exciting’ 21st century learning space, with round tables. All the cables were hogtied together with about a million plastic fasteners, and disappeared down a central hole in the middle of the table. When a cable comes loose, it is impossible to crawl under the table and find the right one.
    Another hideous instance was where our staffroom was also ‘transformed’ in a homily to progression over a holiday break. A lot of teachers were not even told. The progressive young male teacher who did it all went through everyone’s things and THREW OUT many people’s folders of paper resources into the Otto Bin!! One geography teacher (who was about 58) lost years of resources, because the young man could not see the relevance of her stuff. She was in tears. Personally I considered going to the police.
    Rant over. Feel free to not publish this comment :)

    • I can empathise. First term this year my Principal asked me to leave my program out front of staffroom to show beginner teachers, (i had about 8 years paperwork there) someone stole it, threw it, or misplaced it … so now i am handing in a web address ; )

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