The Iceberg that Sinks the Titanic of Disruption
“Should I mark this as a sick day,” the office administrator of the church I was serving asked me. “No, ma’am. I’m writing a Bible study at the coffee shop this morning. Afterward, I’m going to one of the church’s student’s basketball games this afternoon,” I replied. However, she insisted that I was not in the office, so I should be marked as not working today. This was a conversation I had in 2006 when I was serving as the Associate Pastor for Students and Missions. I wonder what she would have thought about what most of us had to do when the 2020 COVID-19 stay-at-home order was issued.
Gustavo Razzetti, a contributor to Psychology Today, Forbes, The New York Times, and Fortune, as well as the CEO and Founder of Fearless Culture, authored Remote Not Distant to address the challenges of organizations navigating the new normal of hybrid workplaces. This work of organization psychology delves into why culture matters as employees and employers hold the tension of three locals of work (in-person, hybrid, and remote).
“Foundation provides an explanation of workplace culture: what it is, what it isn’t, why it is important, and how you can begin to examine your own,” argued Razzetti.
Culture has been the up-and-coming buzzword among organizational gurus over the last decade. So, what does Gustavo mean by culture? He argues that culture is not defined as workplace fun, yoga classes, game rooms, casual dress, and the like. Instead, he compares culture to an iceberg, with some of it visible, but a bunch of it is below the waterline and out of sight.
Gustavo argues that culture is not a strategy, but the two mutually benefit one another. He indicated that culture supports results, creates teams, gives employees meaning, adapts better to change, and boosts motivation.
He provides The Culture Design Canvas as a mapping tool to understand and grow an organization’s culture.
You know that old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder?” It might ring true for how Gustavo compels organizational leaders to consider how well their core purpose and values connect with each person within the organization, not just from an intellectual standing but on an emotional and cognitive level.
I experienced this firsthand after the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic had settled. We were entering a new phase of learning and adapting in the congregation I was serving. Some of my staff seamlessly pivoted throughout the process, eagerly coming to the proverbial table with a desire to cultivate new ways to adjust how we worked and how we were going to serve our congregation. However, at the same time, other staff turned inward into survival mode, focusing on their personal needs and slowly detaching themselves from the organization.
Was the answer forcing people to return to the office? Certainly not. The local of their work was merely a triggering mechanism to their existing relationship with the church, with blame to be shared by the employee and me as their leader.
As Razzetti argued, “Most companies have jumped too quickly into fixing mode. They want to land on an answer and move on – often because they want to avoid difficult conversations.”
Remote Not Distant offers tangible strategies to cultivate a thriving culture, whether an organization faces a once-in-a-generation disruption, like a global pandemic, or something else altogether challenging. He lays out six modes of collaboration during a time of disruption, including:
- Focus (encompasses tasks such as strategizing, planning, research, idea generation, or content creation)
- Deep collaboration (fostering creativity, aligning team members, accelerating decision-making, increasing big-picture thinking, and integrating diverse perspectives)
- Regular collaboration (a default to asynchronous for regular collaboration)
- Learning (not just about knowledge but expanding horizons and possibilities)
- Shallow collaboration (spontaneously available)
- Unplugged (This work mode is when your mind, brain, and body take a break).
Taking a step back and looking at the social and cognitive challenges of disruption is critical for understanding what motivates and leads to thriving within an organization. However, at the end of the day, Razzetti believes that the strength of an organization’s culture will either be the iceberg that sinks the “Titanic of Disruption” or lightly pelts it with ice balls as it blows through your organization with no impact to the hull. Maybe I could have used global warming as a metaphor there too.
 Gustavo Razzetti, Remote Not Distant: Design a Company Culture That Will Help You Thrive in a Hybrid Workplace (Highland Park: Liberationist Press, 2022), 9.
 Gustavo Razzetti, “Why I Wrote Remote Not Distant – A Roadmap to Design a Robust Hybrid Culture,” Fearless Culture, Last modified July 19, 2022, Accessed January 11, 2023, https://fearlessculture.design/blog-posts/why-i-wrote-remote-not-distant-a-roadmap-to-design-a-robust-hybrid-culture.
5 responses to “The Iceberg that Sinks the Titanic of Disruption”
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Andy, great summary of the key thoughts from the book. Your description of life in pastoral ministry during the pandemic brought back a lot memories and emotions for me. In your new role with many churches, do you see a common theme in leadership on this side of the pandemic? Have churches adapted or do you see more of a desire to return to the way it was in 2019? I’m sure there’s a spectrum, but do you see the response leaning one way or the other?
Great questions, Roy.
Most ministers’ response to the pandemic fits in with the classic psychological concept of “Fight, flight, or freeze.”
I have encountered ministers who do not believe this pandemic should change what we were doing before and are trying their darnedest to get back to that time. But, on the other hand, I see more ministers recognizing that we still don’t know the full impact of what this pandemic has done to people’s relationships with the church and should proceed forward with a very open mind.
Andy: I can see how remote work can be incorporated easily in tech companies, where the majority of employees are young, and comfortable with the technology. But how remote works is adapted into churches and ministry is less clear. My sense is it will not be as seamless or as quickly adapted but eventually churches will get there.
Andy: I enjoyed your reflection and processing of the book this week. I wonder in your new role if you’ve seen any trends regarding “social and cognitive challenges of disruption” and have any initial thoughts on how to support pastors towards thriving as you lean into this new year.
Andy , in considering the quote you shared, “As Razzetti argued, “Most companies have jumped too quickly into fixing mode. They want to land on an answer and move on – often because they want to avoid difficult conversations.”” how might you integrate Razzettis system with what Friedman says about dealing with the anxious quick fix impulse?