Your Workplace Culture -- Is It "Sick"?

This month, I had a very enlightening conversation with Robert B. Camp about his most recent book, Workplace Culture Matters: Developing Leaders Who Respect People and Deliver Robust Results. Written in a novel format, this book addresses the challenge of changing  "sick" cultures that exist in many organizations -- That is, it is directed at those organizations that wake up one day and realize they have become something they never intended. Their employees run scared. There is no innovation, only blind obedience. There are warlords within the ranks of management, and they fight over turf without considering the best interests of customers, their employees, or their organization as a whole.

During my conversation with Robert, I asked him specifically: "What are the most common causes of ‘sick’ workplace culture? Here is his full response:

Cultures become sick when leaders no longer care about their people, when they put products, clients, or profit ahead of the vehicle through which they achieve those things: employees (people).

Factories don’t make anything.  They’re just buildings. Machines, including computers, don’t make anything.  Without proper guidance, they are just inanimate objects. 

It is no coincidence that Toyota lists Respect for People among the two factors critical to its success (Toyota-global.com; Toyota Way 2001).   

In Workplace Culture Matters, there is a dialog that takes place that elucidates this concept.  Jim, the VP of Operations for Friedman Electronics, explains the following to Jack, the Branch VP of a troubled organization.

“At Friedman, we believe our future starts with hiring the right people,” Jim explained.  “While there are exceptions, we tend to hire for attitude and train skills."

“Wait,” Jack interrupted, “how do you know you’re getting people who can actually do the job   you’re hiring them for?”

“Good point, Jack,” Jim conceded.  “First, we try to grow talent within, so most of our openings are entry-level.”  

“Also, we have created step-by-step instructions — what is called Standard Work — for all our   jobs, so even if someone had come in already having done that job somewhere else, we’d have to retrain them to do it our way.  We’ve learned that, if we hire self-disciplined people with the right attitude, we can challenge and grow them for the rest of their careers.”

As Workplace Culture Matters makes clear, a healthy culture starts with healthy leaders, leaders who agree to common objectives and hold themselves accountable to them, before they hold anyone else accountable.  They then tailor and cascade those objectives down through the organization as a way of aligning everyone and giving them a way of independently knowing how they are doing.  

Finally, leaders of healthy cultures get out of their offices and go to where work takes place, both as a way of knowing what problems their people face and of engaging in dialogs that build bonds of trust and bi-directional loyalty.

What do think of Robert's view on how workplace culture becomes "sick"? How does the leadership in your organization function? Does it encourage or hinder a healthy culture?