A Word About Culture: Part Five

This is the fifth and final post in a series inspired by a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, “The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures”, that posited these five characteristics of effective corporate cultures:

  1. Tolerance for Failure but No Tolerance for Incompetence
  2. Willingness to Experiment but Highly Disciplined
  3. Psychologically Safe but Brutally Candid
  4. Collaboration but with Individual Accountability
  5. Flat but Strong Leadership.

In the prior post, which covered collaboration and accountability, we stressed the importance of giving people responsibility — plus authority — for their given tasks. As we wrap up this series, we address the subject of leadership and share our thoughts on the way our organization works best and why.

The Buck Stops Everywhere

To summarize the HBR article’s point #5, which is consistent with much of what we wrote in our last post:

In culturally flat organizations, people are given wide latitude to take actions, make decisions, and voice their opinions … [they] can typically respond more quickly to rapidly changing circumstances because decision making is decentralized and closer to the sources of relevant information … Lack of hierarchy, though, does not mean lack of leadership … For employees, flatness requires them to develop their own strong leadership capacities and be comfortable with taking action and being accountable for their decisions.

In all likelihood, there isn’t one person in our organization who’d say it lacks leadership. At the same time, most if not all of the people in the organization would say they’re comfortable with the extent to which they’re given rein to manage their responsibilities with authority, to call the appropriate shots, and to let their thoughts be known. While ownership is an overused term, all of our people are encouraged to own their jobs. And they’re recognized and rewarded for doing their jobs well.

Connecting the Dots

Logically, all five of the points in the HBR article are related. In this series of posts, we’ve suggested the ways in which those points are related sequentially (each point feeds off the previous point) and operationally (each point strengthens the functional interactions within the organization and of its people). Writing this series has given us the opportunity to grant ourselves some objective distance from the organization, to appreciate the things we’re doing well, and to connect the appropriate dots.

We hope you enjoyed reading this series as much as we enjoyed writing it.

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