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Kobe Steel Ltd admitted on Tuesday its data fraud has been going on nearly five decades and also revealed new cases of cheating, highlighting the challenges facing the 112-year-old company mired in compliance failures and malfeasance…. “What you see is a pattern, a culture,” said Steven Bleistein, CEO of Tokyo-based consultancy Relansa. “Company culture is something that a leader creates, so the very least you have to do is to remove the leader and the people who were complicit, from the CEO downwards.” Reuters Mar 5, 2018, Kobe Steel admits data fraud went on nearly five decades, CEO to quit.

I always figured that if I worked my way up far enough I’d find a senior manager who would immediately get it, recognize that what was going on was a problem, and would then help to fix it. But it never happened that way. Instead, often the further up I worked the more disjoint I saw between what was being said and what was being done.

The classic case was the senior VP who would often say that if the schedule was wrong we should fix it. So one brave team met with him and laid out that they were not going to meet their deadlines and so requested a slip in the published schedule. His response? “Let’s just wait and see what happens ….” This was exactly the attitude, the culture, to never admit a slip until it happens, that pervaded the organization.

I worked with another VP who would tell his team that he had argued with corporate that the schedule they requested was not realistic. The only problem was that I sat in on those same meetings. His response to if his team could make the schedule in front of his VP peers and to his senior VP boss? “Yes, my team says we can make this schedule.” In his defense, all the other VPs said they could make theirs also, and the organization consistently missed their delivery dates by three to four months and up to nine months, with none ever being on time.

Finally, we had hired a great VP who quickly became the COO. When the current CEO stepped down, however, the COO wasn’t offered the CEO position. Instead, a retired CEO, with the nickname from the financial media of “Fast Eddie” got the job. At an early all-hands meeting where questions were opened to the employees, someone asked “Fast Eddie” about product quality. His response to a question he clearly did not understand was something like “Why do you ask me such dumb questions? Ask me something about the company balance sheet.” This is when I realized that the management issues at this company went all the way to the board of directors as they picked this guy over an exceptional and proven manager they already had.

I always saw it as strange that the lower I was in an organization the more I could get away with changing things. As I moved up it got tougher, but not impossible, to change things. One was under more scrutiny especially by fellow managers who felt the need to compete with me as that was the management culture.

Have you assessed your management culture to see what it takes to have a successful project in spite of that culture?

Thank you for sharing!