Testing Organizational Culture

Culture is the glue that holds our world together, our human-all-too-human world. It is also the primary force in deterring or discouraging rule-breaking. And so it should be. Social contracts and community standards are essential to preserve and maintain a sense of order.

Organizational culture can be a company’s most competitive advantage – difficult to replicate and tenacious enough to endure. BUT it is also the arena in which leaders must step out, go beyond, risk deviating, break the rules – with integrity.

Consider these verbatim comments from individuals in very successful Fortune 100 companies:

“You can work on most anything you want as long as you report it correctly.”

“Strictly speaking you’re breaking the rules. You have to go against the rules to survive and get anything done.”

“There is a fine line between telling the truth and keeping a project alive.”

“Large bureaucratic organizations ask people to be dishonest all the time. This is the biggest de-motivator.”

I know these people as individuals of integrity who believe in what they are doing and want to make a difference. They are not violating any laws. But they are testing the organizational culture in which they strive to excel. They are “breaking the rules”.

To achieve breakthroughs rather than breakdowns, often there is simply no alternative but to break the rules.