Lisa Bodell on “The Most Lethal Culture Killers”
In her recently published book, Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution (Bibliomotion 2013), Lisa Bodell suggests there are three kinds of culture: robust (“zombie-free”), negative, and complacent. She also identifies five especially lethal “culture killers”:
1. Empowering with permission — but without action: It’s not empowering when people are given more responsibility, yet must still obtain an unreasonable number of approvals and sign-offs to get anything done. This signals a lack of trust.
2. Leaders focused on process instead of people: In an effort to standardize and sanitize everything we do, nothing at work is personal anymore. Leaders look to processes, not people, to solve problems — and it doesn’t work. Where’s the inspiration, the vision? This signals a lack of humanity.
3. Overdependence on meetings: “Collaborative” and “inclusive” are corporate buzzwords, but productive teamwork does not require meetings for every single action or decision. People become overwhelmed and ineffective when they are always stuck in meetings. This signals that politics have taken precedence over productivity.
4. Lack of (clear) vision: Great companies need a grand vision and important goals. Too often, companies have vision or mission statements leaden with jargon but devoid of meaning. This signals a lack of purpose.
5. Management acts as judge, not jury: If the purpose of a meeting is to think, create, or build, management has to stop tearing people down when they propose new ideas or question the status quo. This signals a lack of perspective and openness.
Lisa discusses all this in Chapter 2 in her book. With regard to its title, with all due respect to the importance of constant improvement, she asserts (and I agree) there must also be in any organization — viewed as a “garden” — constant pruning of whatever is a threat to its health.
She is the founder and CEO of futurethink, an internationally recognized innovation research and training firm. Lisa founded her organization on the principle that everyone has the power to innovate; they just need the knowledge and tools to know how. As a leading innovator and cognitive learning expert, she has devised training programs for hundreds of innovators at leading companies such as 3M, GE, and Johnson & Johnson.
A respected thought leader on innovation topics, Bodell has appeared on FOX News, and in publications such as Crain’s, Business Week, The New York Times, WIRED, Investor’s Business Daily, Successful Meetings, Harvard Business Review, and The Futurist.
She serves as an advisor on the boards of the Institute of Direct Marketing in London, The Women’s Congress, the Association of Professional Futurists, and the prestigious Institute for Triple Helix Innovation think tank, and has also taught marketing at American University and the American Management Association.