Toxic Habits of an Organization

Dateline: January 17, 2014

Welcome to our Friday WRAP – one thought-provoking idea to think about over the weekend.

January seems to be a time of taking stock of ourselves and doing a personal inventory of our strengths and our opportunities for growth.  Recently, Fast Company published a blog titled, “How to Turn your Toxic Habits into Better Patterns of Behavior” and that caught my attention. Charles Duhigg , NYTimes business reporter and author of bestselling book The Power of Habit, shared his thoughts with blogger Drake Baer.  They describe keystone habits, those that, when changed, have a domino affect on other parts of your life.

Some habits seem to be much more significant than others, because when a keystone habit starts to change, it sets off a chain reaction that changes other patterns as well, almost subconsciously.

Companies also have keystone habits,

For a company, the same kind of thing is true. If a company wants to create behavioral change, it needs to identify those corporate habits that seem to touch those people’s self-identity. Or the corporation’s self-identity, in a way that can spark change. The best example of this is Alcoa; when Paul O’Neil came in as the CEO of Alcoa, he said, I want to focus, almost exclusively, on what are safety habits. Alcoa is a big aluminum company: worker safety doesn’t add to the bottom line at all, but he knew it would be powerful, it would be a keystone habit for the company because worker safety, despite not having financial goals, is pretty much integral to how everyone sees their job when you work in a super dangerous factory…

Typically, when there are corporate habits that undermine individuals, it has emerged without any sort of central planning. Nobody sits down and says, “I’m going to create an evil habit for this corporation.” What happens is that nobody sits down and says “I’m going to think about this company’s habits.” So bad habits pop up. Bad habits usually pop up to try and overcome some weakness that already exists.

One way to change corporate habits, they continue, is to set up rewards that are consistent with the corporate goals.

What corporate habits exist in your organization?  What is the keystone habit that, when changed, would cascade though other behaviors and create the culture you seek?

That’s a WRAP!  Have a nice weekend.


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