An organization's culture, whether that of a corporation, a government agency or any NGO is like an autobiography that says, "This is who we are, what we value, and how we operate." Whatever its particulars may be, an organization's culture will either lift up its people and performance or drag them down. I will give you brief particulars of two real cultures that once dragged people and their performance down, down, down.
The Screw before Getting Screwed Culture
Barbara Toffler graphically tells in her book about how she was dragged down by the corrosive effects of the culture at the now defunct Arthur Anderson firm. She describes bosses who bullied, desperate sales pitches, excessive over billings, demeaning motivational hype, and a "brutally cutthroat" culture where "I learned to try to screw someone else before they screwed me."
The Poisonous Culture
The 2006 annual leadership retreat was vividly different from the previous one in the surroundings, attendees, and speeches. The 2005 retreat was posh, "the Palm Spring's fling." The 2006 retreat was austere. The former chief financial officer and another top executive could not come to the 2006 retreat. They were in Federal prison. The CEO in 2005 did not attend the next retreat. He had been ousted. The new CEO, reputed to be a "straight arrow," presided over the 2006 retreat. The 2005 speeches must have been self-congratulatory and smug. The 2006 speeches were a stern "wake-up call." The new CEO said the corporation was "plagued by a poisonous culture," one that supported winning at any cost and that pervaded the corporation from top to bottom. The corporation was Boeing, one of America's top 25 defense industries. For all of that CEO's preaching, do you think Boeing has really stopped milking the government?
The Seven Essentials of an Uplifting Organizational Culture
So far in this six-part series a model corporation has been described in comparison to real corporations as one that is shorter and smaller and is responsibly owned, governed and led. In this fourth article another required feature is added, an uplifting culture, one that helps to lift up, not drag down the people within and their performance for the corporation. An uplifting culture of a corporation or of any organization will have seven essential features.
1. Supportive Values. Values reflect and help influence what really matters to organizations and their people about what is to be done and how it is to be done. When there is consensus in the corporation about the basic value of doing business consistently in a positive manner and in consistently producing positive results (see Part One), then it is virtually certain that all of the following supportive values will be honored in practice throughout the corporation; honesty, integrity, loyalty, promise keeping, fairness, justice, caring for and respecting others, excellence, responsibility, and accountability.