Signs of Slipping Back Into an Input-Based Culture

It is not hard to see why Output-Based Cultures create superior results and attract the best kind of peopleCreating this type of culture is difficult work…especially if the organization has been entrenched with an Input-Based mentality. After doing the hard work, it is often more difficult maintaining an Output-Based Culture. To sustain an Output-Based Culture, it is important to recognize internal signs of slipping back into an Input-Based mindset. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start!

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Team-members brag about Input-Based instead of Output-Based accomplishments

When you start hearing people brag about how many emails they “processed” in a given day, or when you hear someone talk about how many meetings they attended, be on high alert. If this becomes normal chatter throughout the office, and there is no mention of outcomes, resolutions, or accomplishments, there may be a problem. Output-Based cultures have people talking about accomplishments that are in line with organizational purposes and plans. 

Process confusion

Many people do a lot of work that makes no sense considering organizational goals. When team-members spend more time confused and frustrated due to misaligned work or expectations, it is time to look at processes. Often, people do a lot of hard work without real purpose. Day after day they do the same thing because that is what they have always done. To change course, would be too hard or seen as ridiculous. Processes are not meant to stifle innovation or dampen the entrepreneurial spirit. Bad and outdated processes do this. Good and timely processes free people to do great work and produce superior outcomes.

Turnover (churn)

Not all turnover is bad. I repeat. Not all turnover is bad. However, when an organization’s “A” players start to leave, leadership must ask if their purposes and plans resonate with top performers. Top performers want to be part of something big, and they want to feel a sense of belonging. When they do not have this, they leave. Organizations that focus upon inputs, often see top performers move on to more intriguing opportunities.

Lack of accountability

Great output-based cultures prize high expectations and accountability. Top performers find such environments attractive. When there is a lack of accountability, and team-members can do what they want, slipping back into an input-based culture is easy. Top performers want feedback, challenge, and growth. Such wants typify an output-based culture. Accountability is a hallmark of these cultures.

Unclear expectations

Output-based cultures are laser focused upon their outcomes and what they expect of their team-members. Input-based cultures often highlight themselves with confusion, misalignment, and unfocused expectations. When the purposes and plans do not have strong connections to outcomes, confusion reigns. Do team-members know what is expected of them in each role? Are there clear metrics that need to be realized at the organizational, team, and individual levels?

Compliance measures trump operational needs

Compliance is necessary. Without solid compliance, organizations find themselves facing many distractions. However, many compliance measures exist for compliance sake instead of being integrated with the overall purposes and plans. HR is notorious for having forms, videos, and workshops to meet compliance needs. They do them because they have always done them. This is not all bad, but when HR becomes singly focused upon “keeping the organization out of court,” the HR function has lost its focus…finding, developing, and keeping great people, who help the organization fulfill its core mission.

There is little productive conflict

Constructive conflict is a great tool! When an organization has a culture characterized by trust, team-members feel empowered to disagree and challenge norms. When this is lost, productive conflict diminishes. How dangerous! People fail to challenge one another about missed opportunities, ways to improve, and bad behavior. Such cultures sink back into an input-based mentality as people loss focus of desired organizational outcomes.

Meetings after the meeting

Ever heard of the meeting after the meeting? This is the meeting where people gather to gossip and tell each other what they would have liked to have said. This is toxic and a key component of input-based cultures. Such behavior demonstrates a lack of trust to speak freely in the main meeting, and a culture characterized by fear, unaccountability, and misalignment. Top performers will run from such organizations.

Energy is low after meetings and group interactions

Great organizations bring energy to meetings, and people feel energized after them. Output-based cultures highlight success and what is going right. Such cultures highlight challenges, obstacles, and shortcomings. They energize team-members to act. Low energy meetings go over mundane details, areas where team-members need to comply, and never attack problems head-on. 

No one can explain the core purposes or plans

Input-cultures see core purposes (mission, vision, values) and plans (strategic plans) as wall hangings and file fillers…not mantras and directions for living. There is no real understanding of them because no stories have been told. Output-based cultures live and breathe their core purposes and aligned plans. Stories are told and retold highlighting aligned outcomes. Celebrations speak of what the team has done.

Output-based cultures provide organizations with a competitive advantage. When aligned, the purposes, plans, and outcomes create a high energy environment, which attracts top talent. What connects them? Having the right people, doing the right thing, with the right tools, in the right way helps create alignment, excitement, and commitment.


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Disclaimer: This blog is not legal advice, but merely informed opinion or general information meant for no particular purpose. Issues addressed in this blog often implicate federal, state, and local labor and employment laws. This blog is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. Readers should consult labor and employment counsel to determine whether their particular policies, procedures, decisions, or courses of action comply with such laws. 

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