Culture – a Powerful Innovation Barrier

After 30 years of quality management, lean, Six Sigma, right-sizing, outsourcing and other management philosophies, most organizations have efficient, rigid, inflexible operating models and cultures that are very good at cranking out the same products, and very poor at creating new products.

What’s interesting is how nebulous and yet how powerful corporate culture can be, observes Jeffrey Phillips. If asked, we can produce an “org chart” that describes how the organization is structured, at least on paper, which also should suggest reporting hierarchies. Yet you simply cannot draw, or chart out on paper your corporate culture.  It is clearly present, yet maddeningly transparent.  Corporate culture presents its strength only when you try to change it. That’s when you’ll know how powerful, how stubborn and how pervasive your culture is. And when you’ll realize how limiting your culture has become to your attempts to change.

Is your culture really responsive and valuable to what you do now, or have you simply adjusted your goals and your work to the culture as it exists?  If you can’t define the culture, and if you can’t shape the culture or worry about changing it, are you simply accepting your corporate culture and working around it? If so, then it has become a barrier to innovation.

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