Is your organization a “can do” or “can’t do” kind of workplace?

In assessing what makes for a good place to work, the contrast between a “can do” and a “can’t do” organizational culture is a major distinguishing factor.

The “can do” organization empowers and enables its workers to create, innovate, and initiate. While recognizing that resources aren’t limitless and that every new idea isn’t necessarily a good one, it nonetheless nurtures an ethic of support and encouragement. The “can do” organization can be an exciting, engaging place to work.

The “can’t do” organization, by contrast, makes it hard for even the best of projects to succeed and for new ideas to get off the ground. It sets up layers of bureaucracy, promotes people programmed to say “no,” and plants hedgerows at every stage of approval and implementation. It saps the morale and energy of some of its best people.

And then there’s a maddening hybrid variety, the dysfunctional, balkanized organization that readily supports ideas (good or bad, it doesn’t matter) coming from its inner core group, while instinctively blocking initiatives proposed by those it keeps on the outside.

I suggest that you’ll find a heavy concentration of “can’t do” and hybrid organizations in the lower ranks of their respective fields or vocations. This may seem self-evident, but obviously it isn’t so to a large cross-section of institutional leaders. Meanwhile, their more inclusive, secure peers at successful organizations are reaping the rewards of a culture that embraces innovation and quality.

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Related post

Great organizational leaders enable and empower others (2011)

Dealing with “gatekeepers” at work: Beware of Dr. No (2011)

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One response

  1. “And then there’s a maddening hybrid variety, the dysfunctional, balkanized organization that readily supports ideas (good or bad, it doesn’t matter) coming from its inner core group, while instinctively blocking initiatives proposed by those it keeps on the outside.”

    Another layer to the above is deliberate engaging of the ‘lower’ ranks in meetings (sometimes endless) that ‘appear’ to solicit input and ideas, but are only really intended to give lip service to the idea of ‘teamwork’. These meetings: A. Enable them to find out who is thinking what – which, of course, will only be used for the benefit of those in authority; and B. Give the impression – to anyone looking in – that they care about the thoughts of those they manage.

    If anyone (of lower rank) gives the impression they aren’t grateful for the ‘opportunity’ to give input, then they are dutifully put on the ‘list’ to watch. Telling the truth at these meetings only results in punishment of some kind. One time I read a quote about the definition of a meeting: “I came. I heard. I concurred.”

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