Organization & Leadership Consulting
claymation culture

The way your organization runs is a lot like the artform of clay animation, or claymation. As a leader, this makes you an animator.

Other terms for this art form are “stop-motion” or “stop-action” animation. Either term may seem counterintuitive to what is expected of a leader…to keep things moving…ideally in the most helpful direction, yes…but to keep things moving…and usually at an up-tempo pace, right? Not so with stop-motion.

Claymation involves a lot of non-motion. However, the motion that does occur is calculated and timely. Here are three ways that shaping organizational culture is like stop-motion animation.

  1. Culture is all about animation. Think about it. An organization’s culture is a combination of what its people believe about it and how they behave as a result of those beliefs. Culture is “behaviors based on beliefs”. Stop-motion animation is the shaping of intentional action based on a script (a set of articulated beliefs). It is so purposeful that significant attention is also given to eliminating and preventing any motion that will not move the story along in the intended way. Your people need to know which motions to make…and not make…and why. 
  1. Culture-shaping requires intentional, hands-on involvement. Leaders get the culture they shape or the culture they allow. In the making of a stop-motion film, every piece of anything in the frame of the camera has been intentionally placed and lit for a specific purpose and outcome. Every piece. Every. 

Eventually, some of those pieces are permanently set and no longer need the same degree of attention. (Whew.) But they do need it at the front end of the process…or else they fall out of the frame, are at the wrong angle, don’t get appropriate lighting, upstage the intended focus of the scene, etc.

  1. Executed with values-based consistency, people experience the resulting motion without being distracted by the stopping of the motion. In fact, the stop-action moments become an accepted and appreciated aspect of the culture. Claymation films have a distinctive charm about and appeal to them. They’re not for everyone, and they vary in style, mood, and tone. But when done with a consistent approach, people know what to expect and can more authentically opt in or out. For leaders to effectively shape culture, they must define expectations (the style, mood, tone, etc.) and consistently hold the animation team to those standards. Doing so requires frequent pauses in the action for the purpose of defining the next move or resetting the pieces for a reshoot. 

Materials used in clay animation are intentionally “deformable” (created to be easily shaped). When left alone in certain environmental conditions (high heat, high humidity, etc.), the material will deform according to whichever environmental factors exert the most pressure on them in between takes. Animation and film crews must collaborate in a timely manner to complete a given scene within a specified time frame or run the risk of having to start over. You get the picture.

Whether or not claymation is a preferred mode of entertainment for you, it parallels the art of leadership in many ways. I encourage you to view a stop-motion film while thinking about the intentionality that went into every frame…and what that animates in you.


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