For a couple of different seasons in my life I worked as an auto claims adjuster. The easiest claims to handle were windshield replacements. What never ceased to amaze me about them, though, was how many windshields could have been repaired instead of replaced.
You know what happens. You’re driving down the road when a pebble hits your windshield. You see the small chip but don’t think much of it and decide to let it go. After a time, however, it begins to spread and wind it’s way across your view until it covers the expanse of the glass.
As strong as culture can be for an organization (think Apple, Disney, Southwest Airlines, WL Gore, Zappos), it’s also the most fragile and easily endangered aspect. One seemingly innocuous decision can set into motion a network of consequences that begins to wind its way through the organization until the whole thing comes tumbling down. Initially the damage is often imperceptible and something that most agree can be lived with. But, by the time the effects have spread it’s too late.
I wonder how often this happens. How often does an organization make a short-sighted decision to absorb acceptable losses only to find their culture is more fragile than first realized? When the health of an outfit can be short-circuited by one small move, it makes every decision of paramount importance.
That’s no small thing.