Saturday, December 8, 2012


Just how does an organization create a culture of doing things right? Culture is defined as a set of values, attitudes, goals and practices that characterize an organization.  It is an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behavior, the characteristic features of everyday behavior shared by people in an organization.  Many people come to the organization with the right moral compass. Others don't.  The challenge in an organization is to get everyone singing from the same sheet music.  How is that best accomplished?

We all know the culture of doing things right has to start with top management. Much has been written about leadership coming from the top.  But others have recognized the need for day to day leadership from middle management.  Our military experience teaches us that with the right kind of leadership from the top all the way down, even the lowest private in the ranks learns the acceptable behavior.  Leadership from the top means supervision of all leaders all the way down the line.  From general to colonel to major to captain to lieutenant to sergeant to corporal, the message must get through to everyone.

Training is required but of limited utility.  Online training in our opinion is ineffective.  The challenge is to keep the message fresh.  Often, an organization runs the risk of the message going stale or being forgotten.  Training has to be meaningful, not mind numbing.  It has to be alive, vibrant and relevant, something you can touch and feel which stays with you.

The crux of an effective program to promote a culture of ethical behavior is two-fold: 1) publication of case examples and 2) recognition of outstanding ethical behavior.  These approaches should be at the top of the list.  We all know we learn and remember better from actual experience or study of cases of real events.  An organization seeking to instill the culture of always doing the right thing and always doing things right must spread the word of real life examples of exemplary behavior.  The examples should come from the ranks and those displaying the behavior should be recognized by the top leaders (and all other leaders) in the organization.

Learn by example.  Simple.  The way to establish the baseline set of values, attitudes, goals and practices for the organization is by publicizing and recognizing the exemplary behavior of members of the organization.     

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