List of 80+ typical flaws of organizational cultures

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List of 80+ typical flaws of organizational cultures

April 26, 2019 Uncategorized 2

Introduction before the actual list

The aim of this article is to provide a list of typical cultural flaws which is as complete as possible. We expect to update this article with new and new flaws we discover and can name them. If you can name some culture flaws not mentioned on the list, please let us know in the comments so that we can update the document.

The list is a result of years of our experience and studies and weeks of active work just to make this list. We could use it as our unfair advantage in our consulting services, but we believe in reciprocity, radical transparency and maximizing positive impact and therefore we share it publicly.

The list can be used as a source to quickly name the strengths and weaknesses of your organization. You can use it for an excellence audit or a culture audit of your organization even without our help. A tip for organization leaders who want to do it properly: consider giving the list for assessment to different members of your organization to get different perspectives. We all have blind spots, value different things and suffer from many errors in judgment. One especially dangerous in this situation is the overconfidence effect where most of us see ourselves better than we really are, and leaders usually see their organization better than it really is.

The actual list

We structure it into 5 areas: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual and Others. We also structure the areas into sub-areas.


(Flaws related to physical aspect like money, freedom, survival and actually doing things)

  • Responsibility
    • Avoidance of accountability, responsibility
    • Unclear responsibility
    • Taking responsibility away when not proper (e.g. micromanagement or responsibility for quality from developers, production workers towards testers, inspectors)
    • Lack of ownership, blaming others
    • Lack of pro-activity
    • Punishing well-meant pro-activity which lead to failure (especially if tolerating inactivity)
  • Discipline
    • Tolerance of bad habits
    • Lack of discipline
    • Lack of commitment
    • A dirty, messy environment
    • Excessive absenteeism
    • Not finishing things
  • Basic needs
    • Lack of flexibility
    • Low pay, poor benefits
    • Lack of freedom
  • Lack of energy
  • Unnecessary overspending of time, energy or money


(Flaws related to mental aspect like efficiency, effectivity, growth and doing things right)

  • Time and energy management
    • Micromanagement
    • Wasting time
    • Overworking as a standard and/or as a source of pride and honor
    • Work often not delivered on time
    • Lots of context switching
    • Being too ‘busy’ and valuing ‘busyness’ (working only on urgent work, very little time for more strategic, long-term focused work)
    • Lack of deep work, lack of state of “flow”, too many disruptions
    • Too much pressure
    • Too much chaos and lack of order
    • Wrong priorities and process of setting them
    • Being too slow (in decisions and/or delivering work)
  • Thinking, problem solving, decision making
    • Not paying attention to problems
    • Solving unsolvable problems
    • Missing, insufficient or wrong processes
    • Autocracy, bureaucracy or democracy instead of an idea meritocracy
    • Common groupthink (bad decision made in a group where few – or even none – of the individuals from the group would make such decision)
    • Solving important, complex or costly problems without sufficiently understanding them first
    • Solving important, complex or costly problems without thinking about the process of how to solve them first
    • Confusing discussing/thinking hard with analysis (the first two are like pedaling an exercise bike – lots of sweat and energy but goes nowhere). Note: metaphor taken from M. D. Jones’s Thinker’s Toolkit
    • No or wrong metrics or not paying attention to metrics
    • Negative attitude
    • People not doing what they are good at, doing what they are bad at
    • Deciding too much based on assumptions and feelings, not paying enough attention to research, facts and hard data
  • Learning, improving and sustainability
    • Closed-mindedness
    • Lack of feedback
    • Not listening to the ideas of others
    • Lack of transparency
    • One-way communication
    • Not learning from mistakes, especially vicious or trying to hide mistakes
    • Not valuing independent thinking
    • Discouraging improvement and innovation
    • Bottlenecks and irreplaceability of certain people
  • Basic needs
    • Lack of opportunities to learn and grow
    • Lack of challenges
    • Low quality, productivity or efficiency as a standard


(Flaws related to emotional/social aspect like relationships, communication and doing things in an enjoyable way)

  • Relationships
    • Employees taken as a resource, not human beings
    • Not caring enough about long-term relationships filled with trust (with employees, customers, partners, suppliers, …)
    • Lack of friendship, support, and encouragement for each other
    • Negative emotions among employees: anger, envy, disdain, frustration
    • Hyper-competition, unfriendly competition, “we and they” thinking, lack of cooperation
      • Individual-level within a team
      • Cross-team level
    • Low employee engagement
    • Lack of empathy
    • Group of ‘cool kids’ (a closed group within a bigger group)
    • Tolerating freeloaders, bad employees
    • People not using their complementary skills effectively
  • Communication
    • Poor internal communication, lack of communication
    • Office gossip
    • Fear of conflict, avoiding conflict or insufficiently solved conflict (it often grows silently until relationships are unrepairable)
    • Fear of asking for help
    • Not able to freely speak the mind and be listened to
    • Seeing only the negative, complaining and not offering improvement
    • One-way communication (mentioned already above)
  • Basic needs
    • Inattention to the unhappiness of employees
    • High employee fluctuation, employees leaving the organization
    • Lack of praise and reward
    • Lack of recognition and appreciation
    • Humiliation, bullying
    • Blaming employees when not their fault (the fault is randomness or flaws in leadership, processes, culture, resources, tools or data)
    • Fear, insecurity, threats and too much worrying
    • Lack of joy, fun, and humor
    • Disinterest and lack of passion
    • Lack of harmony


(Flaws related to spiritual aspects like purpose, conscience and doing the right things)

  • Purpose and Conscience
    • Thinking of people (customers, partners, employees) in a way to GET value and not in a way to GIVE value
  • Purpose
    • Overvalued short-term goals over long-term goals
    • Overvalued financial goals over vision, mission or culture
    • Inattention to results
    • Lack of direction, unclear vision and mission
    • Missing or bad goals – should inspire, give meaning, passion, cooperation and challenge and they should be clear to give guidance
    • Individual goals over shared goals – missing alignment on shared goals
    • Bad customer reviews, bad reputation
    • Poor quality of product/service
    • Obstacles for employees to do their job well, to feel pride and purpose in their job, the job of their team or company
  • Conscience
    • Tolerance for unethical behavior
    • Lack of fairness
    • Ego and/or comfort over conscience
    • Politics over value delivery or work relationships
    • Consciously hurting someone
  • Trust
    • Low integrity
    • Lack of trust
    • Lack of respect
    • Taking credit for the work of others
    • Lying, half-truths
    • Broken promises


(Some other flaws which fall under none of the previous clusters or to more of them)

  • (Meta flaw) Unclear desired culture – no clear principles, values, no way to easily distinguish between what is right and wrong. It’s almost sure to lead to inconsistencies and unnecessarily hard to solve conflicts among people with different values and beliefs. Such a culture is quite fragile where minor things can relatively easily break good culture.
  • (Meta flaw) Organization core values do not serve as the basis for how the organization functions
  • Low standards and tolerating them
  • Misalignment of values
  • The imbalance between production and production capability (organization should make a balance between producing results now and the capability to produce results in the future)
  • Competition over Cooperation (seeing objectives of different stakeholders as conflicting, competing with each, which leads to fighting among each other, which leads to nobody winning. Better way is finding synergies and cooperate towards common, shared goals where everyone wins)

Once again, if you know about some flaws not on the list, please write us in comments. We are also looking forward to reading your thoughts on this list.

If you feel your organization has many of these flaws and would like to do something about that or if you would like to get more clarity into the cultural flaws in your organization, you can consider our Business Consultations, especially excellence audit.


2 Responses

  1. […] Typical cultural flaws (list of 80+ typical cultural flaws with sub-list of 10 most vicious flaws) […]

  2. […] I work with a model of a world where, in pretty much any situation, I assume it has 4 basic aspects and I try to see them. You can see it also in the list of 80+ typical cultural flaws. […]

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