Culture and High Performance

Today I am working with anticipation and even some excitement on a presentation for a meeting at Cargill later this week with some twenty top leaders of RD&E; from the greater Minneapolis/St.Paul area. We have just concluded with them Phase I of an empirical study on culture and high performance in RD&E; functions. Our working hypothesis is that culture is the most under-utilized lever for creating sustainable high performance in RD&E.;

While much of our learning to date is qualitative, we did ask all participants in the study to complete eight normative statements. The large majority of respondents agreed that “Culture is the main source of sustainable high performance in RD&E.;” In contrast, however, there was a broad distribution in response to the statement, “My RD&E; organization focuses on culture as a means of creating competitive advantage.” The scaled responses of participants indicate that many RD&E; leaders do not focus on culture per se (though those surveyed overwhelmingly agree that it is a main source of sustainable competitive advantage).

We observe the following frequent disposition of RD&E; leaders regarding culture:

  • a belief that culture is a lagging phenomenon, not something that one works on directly
  • an attitude that RD&E; is too deeply embedded in the larger organization to address culture
  • lack of confidence and/or skills to work cultural elements
  • blind spots about the impact of culture to motivate and sustain high performance

Regardless of one’s beliefs about culture, there are perceptions that it is nigh unto impossible to change the culture from the position of leadership in RD&E.; AND, then there are those who are doing it!

We’ll be expanding this study to the Bay Area in California in the fall. And writing a “white paper”. Let’s us know if you’d like to learn more.