Most of my readers know I’m Irish, though I usually write from a more global perspective or give my insights on news and issues that originate outside Ireland.
That said, when I saw an article by an old colleague appear in the Irish Times, I had to share this with you. Though he’d likely not remember me these many years later as I was just a new joiner at PA Consulting at the time, today Eddie Molloy and I certainly share the same outlook on the critical importance of a strong company culture. An excerpt of his article is below, but I strongly encourage everyone to click through for the full article as he gives much more insight that is well worth your time.
“NOT SO long ago only academics and jargon-prone management consultants spoke of the culture of organisations. Real, meat-eating executives had little time for this “soft stuff”.
“Today all has changed, as the culture of organisations has moved centre-stage in attempts to explain what went catastrophically wrong in countless institutions across all sectors. The latest example is the Gibbons-Shannon report on the deaths of children in the care of the State and a few weeks ago we had the reports on RTÉ’s Mission to Prey and the problems in AE in Tallaght. …
“There is nothing ‘soft’ about culture. It is the most difficult thing to change and it is high time that boards of directors and senior executives gave it due attention. A dysfunctional culture is a debilitating liability and may even carry the risk of corporate implosion as, for example, in the case of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and some Irish organisations. On the other hand, a culture based on a decent set of values is a precious asset.
“The significance of an organisation’s culture is brutally revealed in the health system. The suffering endured by people in hospital emergency departments has gone on for decades as they lay on trolleys or sat on chairs, for days on end in some cases. The problem seemed intractable without substantial extra resources.
“But in the wake of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) report on Tallaght hospital, Sir Keith Pearson, chairman of the hospital’s interim board gave the lie to this analysis: ‘It doesn’t cost money to deliver dignified care; once you get the culture, the values and the behaviours right at the leadership level, you release the clinical staff to get on and do what they do extraordinarily well.’”
Note in particular 3 key points on culture Mr. Malloy makes:
- Culture is not “soft.” As my CEO, Eric Mosley, and I pointed out in Winning with a Culture of Recognition, when done right strategic, social recognition is a powerful driver of organizational success and just as vital as any other strategic management practice.
- Cultural failures can cost people their lives, or their livelihoods. Indeed, this is more stark in healthcare organizations where lives are quite literally on the line. But in every organization, in every industry, the culture you create (or merely allow to propagate), can build up or destroy the livelihoods of countless individuals.
- Getting culture right releases limitless creativity, productivity and engagement. To paraphrase Sir Keith Pearson, create a supportive, positive environment that frees people to do what they do best, then get out of their way.
What examples of the failures of a poor culture – or the successes of a strong one – have you experienced?
About Derek Irvine
The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.