Lessons Learned from: “You Can’t Fix Culture”

The headline on the cover page of the April 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review states “You Can’t Fix Culture” with a subtitle of “Just focus on your business and the rest will follow” is consistent with our way of thinking. The actual article is titled, “Culture is not the Culprit” with a subtitle, “When organizations are in crisis, it’s usually because the business is broken.” The traditional recommended solution has been to change the culture to save the business. The main theme of this article is when facing a crisis the solution is to fix the business, not fix the culture. That is, given a business crisis or a desired new strategy: adjust or change the business strategy and the culture will change to match or support the requirements of the new business strategy.

Case Studies from “You Can’t Fix Culture*

The case studies from Ecolab, Delta, Ford, and Novartis are featured in the article and illustrate how the senior leader of each company dealt with a challenge or a threat to the organization. The leaders addressed their strategies to solve their respective difficult business decision. In each case the strategy successfully impacted the business and as a result successfully evolved the culture of the organization.

A wide variety of strategies were used in the above case studies including focusing on making decisions more transparent; pushing decision making lower into the organization; narrowing the focus of the business(s); delegating business responsibilities with appropriate accountability; paying attention to the needs of the front line staff; moving to a partial employee ownership model; developing a central strategy with each unit contributing to the win-win; making appropriate acquisitions; diversification, developing a clear sense of purpose and vision; developing clear metrics for the different stakeholders; to name only a few.

As a result of one or more of the above strategies, the companies observed changes in the business results: better customer relationships; focused on customer-centric decision-making; transparency among business units; increased collaborative work styles; and increased market share and revenue. Also, the companies consistently observed positive cultural improvements in loyalty, trust, autonomy, employee relationships, engagement, and cooperation and collaboration between business units, among others.

Lessons Learned for Wellness and Well-Being as a Business Imperative

The HBR article emphasizes that the organizational culture evolves in response to developing and successful business strategies. The culture evolves to support the values and vision of the business plan and the related strategies: “Why we do what we do” while setting the standards for, “What do we do, When do we do it, and How do we do it?”

The mission for wellness and well-being is to ensure our initiatives are focused on integrating within evolving and successful business objectives. This requires that we demonstrate to the senior business leaders that:

  1. There is a clear “line-of-sight” from healthier and higher performing people to the increased capability to deliver on the business strategy; and,
  2. High level wellness and well-being are necessary characteristics of those heathier and higher performing people, who are needed to create, implement and sustain a successful business strategy.

Once the line-of-sight is established, the environment and culture, as promoted by the HBR article, will evolve to incorporate the necessary elements for driving the win-win philosophy.

Example: Positive Organizational Health as a Business Strategy

Lessons learned from this article, “You Can’t Fix Culture,” plus the four case studies are closely related to the initiatives incorporated in the Positive Organizational Health model which integrates wellness and well-being initiatives within the business strategies of the organization.

This model is described in more detail in two of our books (Part 1 is in Zero Trends 2000 and Part 2 is in Share Values-Shared Results 2016) on our website. Co-author Jennifer Pitts and I believe, the integration of the learning in these two books represents the future model or framework for the field of Positive Organizational Health.

In the three-part 2009 book, Zero Trends: Health as a Serious Economic Strategy, we established the financial business case for Positive Organizational Health and a five-pillar solution for implementation.

I. The Mission: Regaining Vitality in Corporate America and in Americans

  • Change the conversation around health
  • Create Winners, one small win at a time

II. The Business Case: Health Management as a Serious Business Strategy

  • Waiting for sickness is an unsustainable and failed strategy
  • Avoidable costs are related to the number and patterns of 15 health risks
  • Success comes with low-risk maintenance, high-risk reduction and don’t get worse

III. The Solution: Integrating Health Status into the Business Structure

  • Integrate health status into the business strategy
  • The culture of the organization evolves as the business strategy is supported by a strategic, systematic, systemic and sustainable five-pillar structural framework.

1. Senior Leadership
2. Operations Leadership
3. Self-Leadership
4. Reward Positive Actions
5. Quality Assurance

The four-parts of the second book (2016), Shared Values-Shared Results: Positive Organizational Health as a Win-Win Philosophy presents our advanced and functional Model for Positive Organizational Health.

I. Awakening individuals and organizations to their full potential

  • Taking wellness and well-being to a higher level
  • Context and people matter

II. Creating shared values-shared results

  • Engage and motivate leadership
  • Define what you care about, assess where you are, Where do you want to go

III. Evolving positive organizational health

  • What can employers do, What can employees do
  • Co-create a win-win philosophy

IV. Measuring and communicating what matters

  • Measures that matter to stakeholders
  • Communications that motivate

Going Forward

The future of Positive Organizational Health (individuals and organizations) is tied to demonstrating the value of positively impacting business outcomes. Businesses need to continue to reinvent their business model to create and protect their competitive advantage which, most often, is rooted in the state of health and performance of its people and the organization.

In general, most organizations and individuals estimate they are performing between 60% and 80% of their sustainable capability. 100% is not sustainable, but if we could raise the sustainable performance level to 75% to 90% it could result in significant increases in performance of individuals and organizations. Integrating Positive Organizational Health into the core organizational values could create the right stimulus to move the business from good to great. The culture would adapt to support the Positive Organizational Health Initiatives.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.