The hours ticked down to launch time, and Roger Boisjoly had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

It was January of 1986, and the highly respected Morton Thiokol rocket engineer and thermodynamicist was pleading with his supervisors and NASA to postpone the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger on that unusually cold Florida day. Icicles extended for hours from the shuttle and the launch platform, and NASA had never before launched in such cold weather. In fact, it was 15 degrees colder on this day than on any prior shuttle launch.

Boisjoly presented hard data and evidence to support his point — that the O-rings on the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters would fail, leading to an explosion, the loss of the Challenger and the astronauts on board. Boisjoly had written a memo less than 1 year earlier about the clear evidence of the O-Ring failure following a prior launch, and he was concerned that the extreme cold temperatures on the morning of January 28, 1986 would lead to a disaster. (read more…)

Companies, like people, have personalities. That’s the idea behind the organizational DNA framework from Strategy&, a member of the PwC network. For more than a decade, we’ve been working with Fortune 500 companies to better understand how these personality types are expressed in their organization’s DNA so that they can improve performance.

As with human genome mapping, knowledge is power: Identifying the precise building blocks that dictate your company’s personality and performance means you can activate the right ones to influence outcomes. Thankfully, organizational DNA is less complex than human DNA; it has four pairs instead of 23. Although fewer in number, they are powerful levers—decision rights and norms, motivators and commitments, information and mind-sets, and structure and networks—that you can use to maximize your resources and better deliver on your strategy.

We’ve identified seven distinct organizational archetypes –three that execute well and four that do not. We see a nearly even split when we analyze our Org DNA Profiler public data set: 48% of respondents fit weak-execution profiles, and 52% are on the strong-execution side. (read more…)

SmartBlog on Leadership regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds is releasing his new book, “The Culture Engine,” from Wiley. He is a speaker, author, and executive consultant with his own firm and the Ken Blanchard Cos. Learn about Edmonds’ services and subscribe to his blog posts & podcasts at DrivingResultsThroughCulture.com. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and iTunes podcasts.

Below, he answers some common questions about the book and why it’s important to focus on culture within organizations.

“The Culture Engine” launches this week. There are a lot of books about corporate culture available. Why was this book written?

Organizations around the globe are not consistently compelling or inspiring places to work today. Recent data from Blessing White indicates that only 4 in 10 employees are engaged at work. Only 45% of employees are even satisfied at work! (Research from the Conference Board.) Leaders have a great opportunity to craft work environments based on trust, respect, and dignity, every day. (read more…)

Leading change starts with a compelling leadership vision for change. According to leadership expert John Kotter, a lack of leadership vision is one of the most common reasons why transformational change efforts fail.

A leadership vision isn’t just for large, CEO-led, companywide transformational changes. Leaders at all levels need to inspire people to change in order to overcome significant challenges and achieve important goals.

“Transformational” is always relative and defined by those most affected by the change. While an office reconfiguration at a branch office may seem insignificant and trivial to a CEO and his executive team, it’s probably considered transformational to the employees that work in that office. It’s up to the branch office manager to have a vision for that reconfiguration or the move is going to be met with skepticism and resistance. The change could take longer than it needs to without even achieving the desired results. (read more…)

Beware of bright shiny objects!

That could be a lesson contained in J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy when we see characters who find themselves in difficulty because they have strayed from their moral center.

Today, the term “bright shiny objects” is used in reference to organizations that cannot formulate a strategy, or if they do develop one, they fail to adhere to it. As a result such companies end up chasing after things that on the surface look appealing but upon investigation prove to be untenable.

Bright shiny objects are distractors. As such they belong in the realm of fables not in the corridors of management. (read more…)