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TLS Continuum: Dangers lurking in our corporate culture

The very essence of our organizations is found within the corporate culture of the organization. It creates the vision of the organization both internally and externally to your organization. From the very beginning of the TLS Continuum series we have stressed the need to see a problem, feel its affects on your organization and create a new corporate culture. In the April issue of the Harvard Business Review, Jay W. Lorsch and Emily McTague alternatively suggest that culture is not the culprit for your problems it is because the business is broken. While I understand their view I would suggest that the very nature that the business is broken means that to some degree the corporate culture is likewise broken. It is within this broken culture that the dangers exist to the organization.

If we Google “characteristics of corporate culture” we find a wide array of articles on the topic. Some of these characteristics are fraught with dangers to the organization. The dangers raise their heads because the characteristics can become obstacles to process improvement in themselves. Consider these characteristics as an example of my point:

Values – It is the generally accepted view that the corporate culture creates the values by which the organization lives and breathes. The dangers become prevalent when those values limit the options that are available to the management and line assets to resolve issues confronting the organization. These narrow values discourage the open dialogue of the obstacles to meeting the voice of the customer. It is the reason many organizations keep doing the same thing over and over again without generating change in the workplace.

Message – Your organization just like every other organization has a message. It is found in your discussions with customers and with employees. Is it a message that tells the audience receiving it that you know what is best or is it one that tells the same group that we are looking out for your best interests and will do what is necessary to meet that expectation? The message must be concise, well presented and clearly understood. The danger lies in your presenting the image of because we have been doing this for umpteen years we know the way it has to be done. The history of the business world is fraught with examples where this message has been the ultimate downfall of the organization from Kodak to Borders Books and others.

Consistency – We all to some degree hate change. But at the same time we hate having the playing field changing with a blink of an eye. With frequent changes the stakeholders in your organization begin to believe that nothing is permanent. There is a saying in the Midwest that if you don’t like the weather wait ten minutes and it will change. Many of our organizations are the same way. The final stage of the TLS Continuum is to establish a standard of work. It is that standard of work which tells your organization that you have a belief in consistency of operations.

Engagement- The success of any introduction of the TLS continuum is based on the involvement of all the stakeholders in the process. When we leave any one facet out of the picture we lessen the engagement level. Unengaged stakeholders lead to the danger of failed improvement efforts. Unengaged employees do not deliver the level of service that the customer demands. They live for the next paycheck not for the ownership of the process.

Open-mindedness – As an organization we can have two types of corporate culture. One is closed in nature. This culture type is based on the belief that the organization knows best as to what has to be done. We know that because this is the way we have always done it. The TLS continuum is base don experimentation. It is based on trying solutions to see if they resolve issues. The successful organizations have an open mind regarding possible solutions with the customer’s well being paramount in resolving problems with the process.

Jay W. Lorsch and Emily McTague have a point when they say that culture can’t be fixed but if we fix the processes the culture will evolve to meet the demands of the organization. However I still believe that the bottom line is that when we implement the TLS Continuum we create a new corporate culture. It is my belief that when we are faced with a problem within a process our solutions do create a new culture. Are we fixing it? I am not sure but I do know that we are creating that new normal going forward. That new normal will by it nature fix a culture that is imploding because we have moved away from serving the customer to the fullest of our abilities.

Continue the dialogue email me at [email protected] and let me know whether as you make the process shifts are you creating a new corporate culture or fixing the existing culture?

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