Panel says changing SHARP culture is difficult

| February 26, 2015 | 0 Comments
General officers, non-commissioned officers and senior civilians attend the Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Summit in Tysons Corner, Virginia, Feb. 18. (Courtesy photo)

General officers, non-commissioned officers and senior civilians attend the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Summit in Tysons Corner, Virginia, Feb. 18. (Courtesy photo)

Jim Garamone
Army News Service

TYSON’S CORNER, Virginia — Changing the culture is the toughest job that Army leaders will have in combating sexual violence, a civilian panel told service leaders, Feb. 18.

The panel, at the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Summit, here, also stressed the role leaders play in changing the culture of an organization.

The summit, hosted by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, has brought commanders and their senior enlisted advisers from around the service to share ideas and learn new ways to attack sexual violence.

Leaders must be consistent and do what they have pledged to do, said Monica Tracey, an associate professor from Wayne State University in Michigan. Tracey consults for General Motors and has dealt with issues of changing culture for her entire career.

She used an example from academia where a professor plagiarized his thesis and – contrary to the university’s zero-tolerance rule – was allowed to stay and continues to teach. Tracey said incidents of plagiarism in the university have risen 32 percent since.

“The culture did not support zero tolerance,” Tracey said. “The leaders did not lead. The story illustrates the power of a culture to shape behavior. Culture determines whether and how knowledge is expressed through action.”

Culture is shared beliefs and values “that leads to norms and expectations by members of that culture,” she said.

Culture is really the glue that holds any organization together, and making changes to a culture means educating the people in the culture, getting them to accept the changes and getting them to “internalize” new behaviors.

The members of a culture take their marching orders from the leaders of that culture. In a university, it is the president, deans and professors. In the Army, it is the general officers and their senior enlisted advisers.

“You are the leaders,” Tracey said. “You are the culture of the United States Army. You are the ones who say, ‘this is how things are done here.'”

She urged the Army leaders to build a constructive culture and listed the attributes of that. A constructive culture keeps promises to employees, inspires less fear and is most impacted by leaders.

“The more constructive the leader … the more constructive the culture,” she said. “Leaders need to create the conditions for transforming a culture.”

While leaders are integral to culture change, they cannot do it alone, panelists said. Leaders set the example and are consistent. This models the behavior they would like to see in those below them in the chain of command. All must be held to the same standards.

Training is necessary to lay down the behaviors expected of subordinates, but it does not, by itself, change the culture. It changes when people internalize the lessons and add them to their values. They internalize the lessons, and the actions become second nature in their responses.

This is what the Army wants to do to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment, according to senior leadership: Leaders must be consistent in confronting sexual violence. They must model the behavior they want subordinates to emulate. They must coach subordinates to explain the changes and the value sets needed.

(Note: Garamone works with DOD News, Defense Media Activity.)

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Category: News, SHARP

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