Last Sunday I was scratching my head for a blog topic this week and found one in an article in
the Los Angeles Times headlined “As global health threats evolved, the CDC didn’t.” The
article focused on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention how and why they had
seemed to be lagging rather than leading during most of the pandemic.
My eye caught a quote from CDC director Rochelle Walensky:
Yes, we are going to be moving some boxes around on the org chart. However, I cannot
stress enough that moving boxes around will not modernize this agency or prepare us better
for the next pandemic. Changing culture will.
This resonated for me given the number of times I have seen leaders spend countless hours on
a reorganization design only to find that it makes little difference. Dr. Walensky speaks of
changing culture and how the org chart does not help much. The reason in my view is that
culture lies not within the boxes but in the relationships among them. Some CDC boxes contain
scientists and academics. They are cautious and seek the same assurance required to publish in
a journal of their peers before acting. Other boxes are filled with people who deal with
politicians and the media daily. They have a strong need to stay on top of stories. Still others
are public health practitioners who believe that imperfect knowledge is far better than none to
How the persons in these boxes relate to each other determines the culture. In particular it
defines the collaboration needed in a successful culture. Let’s stop moving boxes and figure out
how to move the people within them to more engagement with the views of others. Without
that, the boxes on the chart reinforce boundaries and separation, not synergy.
Stay organized. But lose the charts in favor of the connections.