I have some very good friends who own a holiday home on Gozo, an island close to Malta in the Mediterranean.  They were telling me about how birds are shot and trapped on the island and also on Malta.  It’s apparently caused an outcry and a petition calling for it to stop and containing 115,000 signatures was delivered to the Maltese Prime Minister  back in 2007.  Despite it being illegal it’s still happening today.

As a result of holidaying on the island for a number of years they have developed friendships with some local people and asked them why they hunted birds.  Most didn’t know the answer but they eventually found an old lady who was able to explain.  She told them that it started back in the 2nd World War when food was in such short supply that people shot birds to eat.  It wasn’t necessary when the food shortages stopped after the war but by then it had become something they just did – and it’s continued ever since.  It has become part of the Maltese culture.  A bit like Fox Hunting in parts of the UK….

As an aside, Malta (including Gozo) is, because of its position between Europe and Africa, a key staging post for birds migrating between the two continents each Spring and Autumn and according to the RSPB falls in the numbers of some species is partly attributed to the hunting in Malta  As a result Malta attracts lots of critisism for not stopping it completely.   

The story has some parallels with organisational culture.  Firstly, every organisation has some examples of practices and behaviours that are "just the way things are done around here".  Few people can tell you why it happens – it just does. Secondly, it may not serve any purpose any longer, in fact it might be very negative but it remains nevertheless.  And thirdly, changing it, without knowing what the root cause was and being able to unpick the emotions associated with it can be really, really difficult.

Are you still shooting birds in your organisation?

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