by Michael Friedenberg

Define Your Corporate Culture

Jun 12, 20073 mins
IT LeadershipRisk Management

What you don't do can be as important as what you do do.

Over the past few weeks, it has been my pleasure to meet with some of the brightest executives in the business. I asked them all this question: “What is a simple practice that you do in your organization that helps define your culture and creates competitive advantage?”

I heard lots of great answers. Some were very complicated; others were profound but difficult to replicate in all environments. Some centered on people skills, others on product innovation and process optimization. However, there were two answers that I thought were simple, brilliant and universally applicable. They both addressed management and each offered incredible value. I bet we think about doing them all the time, but I’ll also bet that many of us do not practice them at all.

Jim Collins Q&A

Read more from the author of Good to Great

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last, suggested tweaking our to-do lists. We all have them. In fact, the number-one thing on my current to-do list is to write this column. But with all the projects thrown at us, it’s just impossible to do everything. So when something gets added, what are you telling your team and yourself to stop doing? In other words, your don’t-do list is just as important as your to-do list. You can’t take care of your to-dos without figuring out your don’t-dos. Try it.

The other idea came from Hess CIO Peter Walton. How many of us walk the walk when it comes to rewarding failure? If you really want to create a culture of growth and innovation, chances need to be taken, failure needs to be budgeted for. And when your people fail, do you really accept it, or do you shrug and say, somewhat grudgingly (and perhaps menacingly), “Better luck next time.” Well Hess holds an annual ceremony to celebrate the biggest failure of the year by presenting the President’s Intelligent Risk Taking Award. To win, one must identify the risk assumed and the steps taken to mitigate the risk—and one must have failed. The winner gets a trophy. Really, it’s not the failure that’s being honored, it’s the willingness to take prudent risks in a risk-based world.

So, what simple management practices do you have that help define your culture and improve performance? Please send me your best practices at and I will make sure to share them with all of you in a future column.