What Are These Four Cultural Viruses Costing Your Organisation?

Cultural competency is a critical part of what enables us to innovate and execute as an organisation.

To measure competency, we began a study 22 years ago and finished it up just last year. After researching over 7000 managers and employees, we found there are four recurring viruses that plague most organisations.

When these viruses exist, your organisation pays a tax.

Why? Because each of these viruses drag down the overall performance of the organisation. Not only did we find the four most common viruses, but we figured out how much they’ll cost you.

The Personal Virus: A Culture of Resistance

Execution Tax 24%; Innovation Tax 22%

In a culture of resistance, leaders find their “go to” people and solely rely on them to solve the hard problems. In these organisations, only about 5% of the staff gets the hardest problems to solve.

The unwritten rule: “We expect you to do your least and drag your feet.”

Organisations staff around it, simply sidelining people who don’t engage.

The Interpersonal Virus: Culture of Silence

Execution Tax 16%; Innovation Tax 18%

This is the most profound viruses in organisations today. In this culture, employees avoid speaking up about emotionally and politically risky issues.

The unwritten rule: “We value harmony over results.”

In other words, we don’t want truth here. Between truth and power, we value power.

But when an organisation wants people to make the best decisions, execute collectively, and innovate consistently, they have to speak truth to power.

As we met with David Levin of KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), he said, “KIPP’s really good at avoiding this virus. We’re slow to commit because we’ll always tell you we disagree. But once we commit, then we execute.”

The Team Virus: Culture of Collusion

Execution Tax 11%; Innovation Tax 12%

With this virus, employees adopt a code of silence about accountability problems. It’s a collusion: I won’t hold you accountable, you don’t hold me accountable, and we’ll pretend everything’s okay.

Unwritten Rule: “Don’t confront me and I won’t confront you.”

But what happens when confrontation becomes possible?

In thriving organisations like Union Square Hospitality Group and KIPP, you’ll find that anyone can hold anyone accountable and they’re more successful because of it.

The Organisational Virus: Culture of Cynicism

Execution Tax 16%; Innovation Tax 19%

How many of you have heard the phrase “Flavour of the Month”? That’s not exactly an optimistic phrase in business. Usually people say it when someone announces a bold new idea. They’re thinking, “We’ll see if that happens!”

Why? Because the idea is contingent on changing behaviour and the organisation doesn’t know how to change.

Unwritten Rule: “Wait it out.”

The viruses are costly. They stifle execution and innovation and therefore limit success. But what if you had the converse?

Organisations where individuals are capable of self-directed change, intellectual honesty, and peer accountability thrive.  When leaders who know how to influence sustainable behaviour change, their organisations begin to execute and innovate like never before.

As we researched cultural competencies, we found more than we were looking for.

Consequently, we wrote a few books in the process. These didn’t come because we had an interest in the topic specifically. They came because we found when you do these things, you execute and innovate.

Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success

Personal: Are people continually engaged in self-directed change?

Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High

Interpersonal: Can anyone say anything to anyone?

If you create this culture, it drives performance.

Crucial Conversations for Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Promises, and Bad Behaviour

Team: Can anyone hold anyone accountable?

If you create a culture where everyone feels responsible to hold everyone else accountable, it makes  a profound difference.

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change

Organisational: Are leaders skilled at influence rapid, profound, and sustainable behaviour change?

When all these tools work together, the relationship between cultural and performance factors are profound.

As you eradicate each virus, your capacity to innovate and execute increases and you get a bonus rather than a tax.

We’re trying to create human systems that respond to the opportunities to transform possibilities into facts in extraordinary ways.

As we share our journey at Crucial Dimensions, we hope your capacity to make self-directed change, to change your life in a positive way, to achieve unprecedented levels of openness and honesty with others, to create higher accountability relationships, and to influence human systems is significantly improved.

Latest Blog Posts

Stop Apologising

Have you found yourself in a relationship where you find yourself constantly apologising and feeling like you’re being taken advantage of? Genuinely expressing sorrow and


Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Improve communication, habits, productivity and more with weekly insights and tips from our authors and experts.

Join our 10,000+ community.