iStock_000015616695XSmallContaminated steroid medicine from a Boston, MA, pharmaceutical compounding center caused a massive spinal meningitis outbreak in the US over the last month.

That outbreak lead to the deaths of 25, sickened over 300, and exposed as many as 14,000 patients.

The FDA announced this week that inspections at the pharmacy revealed poor sanitation on sterilization equipment and lab surfaces. The company’s clean room where medicines were mixed was anything but clean. Contamination of bacteria and mold far beyond acceptable standards were found throughout the lab. It seems clear that this outbreak was caused by the company’s own poor standards and practices.

A telling note in a NY Times article: there is no evidence that the company or company staff took any action to resolve these issues.

No action.

What kind of culture existed in that pharmacy that would tolerate, even enable, leaders and staff to ignore unsanitary conditions? Time will tell as more details from the FDA investigation come to light.

Create Problem Solvers, not Problem Spotters

In your organization today, do leaders and staff pay attention to things that are “not quite right”? Do they notice and ignore, or do they notice and act?

Every organization faces complacency at times. The temptation to find short cuts is strong in a tight global economy. Short cuts may improve productivity – but at the cost of quality (and safety, as this example shows).

How can you create a culture where leaders and staff notice problems AND solve them, so product and service quality isn’t compromised? How can you inspire leaders and staff to apply discretionary energy – over and above the minimum required – to ensure quality and safety for customers?

Dr. Tony Simons’ research and resulting book, The Integrity Dividend, provides a proven path to creating a culture of behavioral integrity.

Simons’ research discovered “behavioral integrity” when looking for something entirely pedestrian. The hypothesis they were testing was that “employee commitment drives customer service” in the hospitality industry. What they found was immensely more powerful, a concept that proved that employee perceptions of leader behavior significantly impacts the employee’s application of discretionary energy in service to company, team, and customers.

Simply stated, behavioral integrity is leaders keeping their promises (doing what they say they will do) and demonstrating the espoused values of their organization. When employees see their bosses have behavioral integrity, they apply discretionary energy. Customers notice and appreciate that energy, and profits go up.

I firmly believe that the culture in the pharmacy at the heart of the meningitis outbreak was driven by leaders who had little behavioral integrity. Otherwise, the sanitation issues would have been handled by caring staff, moment to moment. That’s not what happened – and lives were lost because of that organization’s culture.

What are your thoughts? Join in the conversation about this post/podcast in the comments section below. How well do your team members “show up,” notice, and act on opportunities to do the right thing, to WOW your customers?

FREE SURVEY: What is it like to work in your company culture? Contribute your experiences in my FREE Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis will be shared in an upcoming post and podcast.

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The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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