It doesn't matter how many cool "principles" are posted on LinkedIn or what doctrine is painted on the wall if, when the rubber meets the road, no employees are abiding by them. No matter how small or insignificant the decision may seem, each one has the ability to shape or consume your culture.   

According to Michael Mankins and Eric Garton, Bain & Company experts in organizational design and effectiveness, and authors of Time, Talent, Energy -- Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team's Productive Power, 2017, there are common decisions made in organizations that are unintentionally undermining its high-performing culture.

Here are seven values that Mankins and Garton said are often stymied because of poor decision making.

1. Innovation 

Everyone wants to work for an innovative organization that's at the forefront of its industry. However, innovation takes time. It's a result of psychologically safe environments where employees feel supported and inspired to experiment and test new solutions. So, if your organization wants to benefit from your employees' successes, then it will also need to have their backs during failures -- no one bats 1000. 

Mankins and Garton cautioned organizations to think before they discipline or fire people for poor outcomes related to informed risk-taking. It only takes one public spectacle to negate years' worth of progress towards encouraging employees to take interpersonal risks vital to their growth.

2. Ambition 

Ambitious organizations believe in stretch goals and challenge their employees to test their limits by setting idealistic outcomes. 

Unfortunately, though, many performance management processes contradict this belief and discipline employees for missing their goals. As a result, Mankins and Garton said, many may "set targets in annual plans and performance contracts that are achievable to ensure consistent payout of bonuses for fear of demotivating employees."  

Companies that re-calibrate their management systems to parallel their larger aspirations will foster ambition and maximize their people's true potential.

3. High Integrity 

Practicing integrity is more than just remaining compliant and ethical. It's about enforcing a code that governs employees when it comes to appropriate conduct and honesty. Unfortunately, per Mankins and Garton, many organizations hurt their credibility by overlooking minor lapses in judgment so that they can keep high-performers (even though they are in direct violation of cultural norms.)

Now don't get me wrong, everyone deserves a second chance. But if organizations are turning their heads to behaviors they know aren't right, they are opening the door to a negative influence that can infect and divide their organization. 

4. Accountability 

Many companies cap their growth and agility because they still employ management practices that are overly directive, bureaucratic, and that harbor micromanagement. Also, they don't flush out areas of ambiguity in their processes which makes assigning accountability impossible. 

To focus on growing the business and creating a culture of ownership, leaders must learn to demystify their work, delegate responsibilities and trust their employees to take care of business. This is the only way to scale your technical-self as a manager and redirect your focus to more strategic work. 

5. Collaboration

The old days of compartmentalized functions and siloed decision making are over. Or are they? Mankins and Garton warn companies to be careful not to stifle collaboration by "empowering hierarchies, supporting internal politics and allowing the loudest or most senior voices to dominate discussions."

6. Agility 

An organization's ability to rise to any occasion, pivot and keep up with the pace of the market is vital to its success. A few things that slow them down are large decision trees, unnecessary complexity, and forgetting to follow through on and execute plans. 

You can spend years perfecting the playbook, but if no one uses it, all your efforts will be negated. Keeping your organization lean, simplifying processes and committing to new plans (by abolishing the old) is crucial to alleviating organizational drag and creating an agile workforce. 

7. People orientation

Thanks to globalization and the internet, fewer and fewer strategies remain proprietary. In reality, it's very easy for a competing organization to invest in the same tools, copy your processes or employ the same tactics. However, other companies will never be able to duplicate your people. 

At the end of the day, a company's people are their purest form of sustainable competitive advantage. Mankins and Garton tell us not to mess it up by creating a work environment that sacrifices engagement for performance. But in the same breath, not to get so focused on engagement that it negatively impacts organizational performance (then no one wins). Ok. So, which one is it? Mankins and Garton said it well, "Anchor the company's purpose in an inspiring customer-centered mission." 

Great cultures take years to build but only seconds to destroy. Be mindful of your choices and ensure each one is supportive of your organization's values. 

Published on: Nov 29, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of