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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Waking Up a Sleeping Company - Authentic Leadership Via HBSWK

One of the greatest challenges for the values-centered culture is to produce top performance and succeed in the market against "win at any cost" competitors. Values are only one part of an organization's culture; the other half is its operating norms—the way in which day-to-day business is conducted. Practicing solid values does not guarantee results unless a passionate commitment to performance standards is incorporated into the organization's norms writes Bill George in his latest book - "Authentic Leadership" Goerge Bill writes, "The company's (Medtronic) long history of success had led to a soft underbelly that manifested itself in a lack of discipline. The company was extremely values-centered, but its internal norms of consensus decision making, conflict avoidance, and lack of personal accountability all undermined the company's performance. For all its strengths, it was my impression that Medtronic's culture was too Minnesota Nice. I realized that these aspects of Medtronic's culture had to change if we were going to be an effective competitor and realize our vision of being the global leader in medical technology.The challenge we faced was changing a successful culture without diminishing its positive attributes. Cultural change is never an easy task, and far more cultural change efforts ultimately fail than succeed. Transforming a healthy culture is even more difficult than changing an unhealthy one. Many people will not understand why change is necessary when the company has been successful. The leader has to be patient, communicative, and diligent in insisting on changes at all levels, or the organization—like the proverbial willow tree—will snap back to its previous mode of operation as soon as the pressure is off. Bill concludes by saying,"The extraordinary results achieved by Medtronic in the past fifteen years shows that an organization can be both values-centered and performance-driven. The key is aligning the organization's values and performance objectives. Working in complementary fashion, practicing values and driving for performance reinforce each other and enable the creation of a great company." Extremely well written and backed by solid performance of the company - this is compulsary reading for all managers.

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