The past few days all you hear about in my home state of New Jersey and elsewhere is the “Bridgegate Scandal.” In case you’ve been out of touch (or living in a cave), this refers to the scandal in New Jersey where senior member(s) of Governor Christie’s staff arranged to have the busiest bridge in America, the George Washington Bridge, closed for a fictitious “traffic study” to get back at the mayor of Ft. Lee, NJ for not endorsing him in the last election (which he was predicted to win and ended up winning by a very large margin). We now know that this caused all kinds of problems for workers, school children and EMS vehicles.
As this is a “logistical” issue (i.e. a bridge and transportation issue), I figured it would be OK to discuss it in this blog. It also can be used to point out the influence of a organization’s culture on employee behavior, which as I’ve mentioned in the past is one of the most important influences on the success of an improvement program like Lean (or Quality, Six Sigma, etc) in an organization.
For those of you not familiar with Organizational Culture, it refers to the behavior of people who are part of an organization and the meanings that they attach to their actions. It includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits and affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with customers, and with stakeholders (including the public in this case).
It’s well documented that a large percent of Lean initiatives at companies in America fail. I believe that in many cases it’s a result of not having the necessary culture that fosters a Lean philosophy throughout an organization. I’ve been in companies where management treats it like a fad throwing around phrases like “do it right the first time” and hoping it sticks. We all know that action speaks louder than words and that it takes a lot more than this to make something like Lean successful.
Management needs to not only talk about it (this includes putting up posters saying fluffy things like “Change Brings Opportunity, Embrace It”), but also needs to support it. To do this they need to put in place a structure that supports continuous improvement including the support, tools and training required for success.
A corporate culture can be used for good or evil as seen in the Bridgegate Scandal, and as a result can strongly influence the behaviors and actions of your employees. So a strong leader of any organization needs to realize that there are always consequences to his or her behavior that they need to think about the existing culture and how they might like to influence it in the future to accomplish their goals.