What Is a Healthy Culture?

Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Advantage, makes a distinction between smart and healthy organizations.  Smart organizations are characterized as strategic, focusing much of their energy on marketing, finance, and technology.   He characterizes healthy organizations as having minimal politics, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover. Lencioni further asserts that the difference between successful and mediocre companies is not how smart they are but how healthy they are.  

We would like to extend Lencioni’s thinking to define a healthy culture. But, before identifying the key components of a healthy culture, we would first like to describe what makes a culture unhealthy. Here are a few descriptors of unhealthy cultures.

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Marie Pazych
Building a Model of How Healthy Cultures Lead to Business Success

This website is dedicated to the relationship between healthy cultures and organizational success.  In our recently published book, Unleashing Human Energy through Culture Change, we make the argument that a healthy culture is the key to creating a workforce that is fully engaged and working in partnership with management to make the company successful.  Our in-depth analysis of the General Motors Tonawanda Engine Plant’s successful transition from a toxic to a healthy culture revealed the steps taken to accomplish its healthy culture and how this led to the plant’s financial turnaround and success. 

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Marie Pazych
Little Things Count

In our book Unleashing Human Energy Through Culture Change, we introduced two concepts to describe the “old” culture at the GM Tonawanda Engine Plant: “industrial warfare” and “industrial depression.” Industrial warfare refers to the level of negativity and mutual hostility that existed between management and workers at the plant. Industrial depression was the resulting condition that sapped human energy from the workforce.

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Marie Pazych
Succession and Culture: Successful Leadership Transitions at Cutco

One of the largest threats to a healthy culture is any transition of leadership.  We have witnessed how a carefully developed and nurtured healthy culture can deteriorate when a new CEO or plant manager takes over leadership.  This is why we have devoted this blog post to some techniques for ensuring a successful transition of leadership in a situation where maintaining a healthy culture was a major factor in choosing the new leader.

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Marie Pazych
 How Cutco Managed the Job Security of its Workers

One of the major concerns for workers in manufacturing is job security. Manufacturers traditionally view workers as a variable expense, laying them off when business slows down.  Also, through outsourcing production and automating tasks, jobs are eliminated, posing an additional threat to job security.

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Marie Pazych
How Cutco Changes Its Culture

In previous articles, we have proposed “the Golden Rule of Management” as a framework for changing an organization’s culture. The rule requires that the organization’s management have faith in its people, trust them to perform their jobs and support organizational goals, and treat them with respect.

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Marie Pazych
Changing Culture in a Union Environment

In our book, Unleashing Human Energy through Culture Change, we describe how Don Rust and his management team shifted the organizational culture at the GM Tonawanda Engine Plant from one of hostility with its union and workers to a productive, highly energized work culture.

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Marie Pazych
Setting a World Record Pt. 2

In our last blog, we presented the planning that took place in preparation for a special day of engine production at the Tonawanda Engine Plant. The purpose for that plan was to determine what the actual engine production per day could be.

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Marie Pazych
Setting a World Record

Question: In a union shop with a history of hostility, can management gain the cooperation of workers to test the maximum capacity of a manufacturing plant? Answer: Yes; read how in our latest blog post.

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Marie Pazych
How to Launch a Culture Change

In this day of tight labor markets, many companies are looking to their culture as a way of attracting and retaining talented employees. The question is where to begin. For some, they will look to enhancing employee benefits and offering more flexible work rules.

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Alan Weinstein
A Case Study in Transformation through Culture Change

Note: This blog was written by Jim Frost, a protégé of Don Rust. Jim is a retired GM operations executive who works as a change agent, executive coach, and leadership expert. We invited him to share his experience in transforming a failing company into a highly energized employee- and customer-centric company.  

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