Culture > strategy; or, what you do means more than what you say

This photo is a great illustration of how what you do far outweighs what you say.

For our purposes today, let’s just accept that this distribution of trash cans is indeed dumb. Two blocks seems pretty far to go between trash cans (it’s a long way to hold a wrapper; you can’t see the next can until you’re about a half-block away from it; if you haven’t seen one for a while, what gives you confidence that there will be another one any time soon?).

And let’s assume that there isn’t something I can’t see in this scenario, such as a big source of garbage in this particular spot.

I don’t know what city this is in, but I’m willing to bet you a trash can (or two) that they have something on their website about keeping their city clean and green.

The thing is, there are people who see the problem with this trash can placement – garbage collectors, street cleaners,  community workers, residents.

There are also centralized ways to validate if your garbage cans are optimally distributed. You could map them, for instance, with an overlay of the locations with significant source of garbage (schools, fast food restaurants).

But if there isn’t a culture of gathering that kind of information, and then acting on it, then it doesn’t matter what the strategy says. For all the “Our City: Keep It Green” slogans, you need to function in a way that supports those slogans. Otherwise it’s just words, which ultimately nobody will care about. And then the next time you come up with a slogan that represents actions you really want to take, you’ll get a shrug in return.

So, some questions to see if you are dropping garbage cans in pairs and calling that an effective city beautification campaign – or the equivalent in your organization or company:

  1. What are you saying, but not doing?
  2. How do you measure whether you are doing what you say?
  3. What resources do you devote to measurement? How often do you talk about the measurement and review the data? How often do you think about what you’re measuring and why?
  4. How often  do you get information – even just casually – from the people who can directly observe and comment on what you actually do?
  5. What are you doing about the root cause of the issue in the first place? Encouraging less garbage to be produced? Anything? Have you even thought about that?

(If you’d like to follow me down this litter-prevention-information rabbit hole, here’s a readable study.)

If you’d like to talk about how to align your culture and execution with your strategy, please get in touch for a no-obligation initial consultation.

Contact us at or call 416-737-3935 to discuss how we might be able to help.


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