The Brittle Organization Cultural Spectrum…
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#BrittleCompute if you want to share something with me about the concept either of Brittle Computing or Brittle Organizations. (please DM me a link as my Twitter Feed scrolls about every 10 minutes I may miss your hashtag!).

There is, a spectrum within and around Brittle Computing and Brittle Organizations. As discussed yesterday within the broad strategic view of an organization (A, B, C, D) there becomes the edges. The closer to D the organization moves the more likely the edges both of the solution and the organization become hard and fast.

Interestingly organizations can become brittle by culture as well. A culture focused on becoming one thing will in the end miss the diversity needed to remain #NotBrittle.

I find many more companies pushing rapidly from A (young, agile) to B and C organizations. Things that should remain agile and flexible become bound the in the corporate culture. You see culture is as brittle as any inflexible org. Where inflexible orgs (in the D space) tend to lose young innovative talent (I can’t innovate here). A and B companies with tight cultures become inflexible for different but still dangerous reasons.

A D company will stifle an innovation and the inventive person leaves the company. The rise and fall of the brilliant ideas within Kodak are a great example of this. A and B companies that create a strict culture driven organization will also experience that except that in their case they won’t hire the diversity and will in the end create a shark culture. If everyone is like everyone else, eventually you are competing for success. That shark culture can take years to move out of a company. It never fails to destroy a company from within.

There is a spectrum and a number of warning signs. (Shark Cultures tend towards Stump the Chump interviews multiple people in the room bombarding the interviewee with questions, there is only one right answer and only the person asking the question knows it). Stump the chump interviews are a huge warning sign. Lack of prompt communication to people interviewing is another. If you see either beware, that is the birth of the Shark Culture.

The spectrum starts with the overall strategic nature of an organization A, B, C, or D.

A Culture:

A Cultures that move into the weaker end of the spectrum end up disappearing – often their technology consumed by a B culture company.

A Cultures that live in the power end of the spectrum can become very successful very fast.

  • Power: Open, innovative and agile solutions.
  • Weakness: Pre-Shark Culture, we are all the same. No diversity of talent in hiring.

B Culture:

B cultures that move to the weaker end of the spectrum signal this by justifying their hiring practices. We are looking for people who are better than the people we have.

B cultures that are at the power end of the spectrum become extremely flexible in integrating new solutions into existing solutions. They are able to remake themselves in the market rapidly.

  • Power: ability to embrace and absorb A companies. Integration of the A concepts allows the existing technologies or solutions of the B company to become better. Move from Niche to market leader.
  • Weakness: A full bore Shark Culture. Every person for themselves. We openly compare employees and people interviewing to people already working in the company. We hire people that act like we do.

C Culture:

C Culture companies that move to the weak end of the pool can become extremely Brittle extremely fast. They often slide quickly from C to D and then out of business.

C Culture Companies that are in the power end begin to move slowly back to the more agile B culture. A B culture company that is embroiled in a Shark Culture can slide into the more sedate C culture, shed the sharks and return successfully to a B culture again.

  • Power: Steady market and ability to move further down the BCG experience curve reducing costs and increasing profitability.
  • Weakness: Full on Shark Culture that in the end continues to replicate itself until the company moves to D and then out of business.

D Culture:a

D Culture Companies that move to the weak end of the pool are in trouble. Reorgs and restructuring will not solve the problem. They are in a morass of cost cutting and price wars. In the end if they remains in this end of the spectrum they will fade out of business.

D Culture Companies that move to the power end of the spectrum can begin to control their market. They won’t be creating innovative solutions but their continued drive toward improvement will create a culture of inclusion. Effective companies in this space are able to contains pockets of A and B companies within their corporate boundaries without crushing them.

  • Power: Pockets of innovation are protected and managed effectively allowing innovative ideas to flow into the business and be leveraged effectively. The company has an established market and is able to protect its market share overall.
  • Weakness: Two ends, one is that the culture has become so Brittle all innovators leave. The other is the toxic reality of an unchecked Shark Culture. The second goes out of business very quickly.

More to come!


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow