This is the first in a series of blog posts about our 10 Culture Principles.
Large or small, start-up or mature, commercial or government, every organization has a culture. A corporate culture is either designed from the beginning or left to develop by default. Either way, you will have a corporate culture.
Culture Matters, Big Time!
New hires can see and feel a company’s culture at every turn; the way things work in their new company is often very different from their previous company. But for those who have worked in a company for several months or years, cultural myopia sets in, and the corporate culture becomes so ubiquitous and commonplace as to be nearly invisible. At this point, no amount of culture audits or management consultant PowerPoints will make it come alive.
I firmly believe that culture is tangible and must be experienced in order for employees to see its real business meaning and value.
What is culture?
Corporate Culture is that unique combination of behaviours, beliefs, assumptions and business processes (formal and informal) that over time have become the “habitual” or “default” approach management and employees use in solving business problems and interacting with peers, customers, clients and suppliers.
A while ago I organized a field trip for the senior executives and team leads of an industrial products manufacturing company. They were having a difficult time getting their waste reduction and quality improvement programs implemented. The company spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours on training, but were still plagued with quality problems and costly waste.
The field trip was to a company with a totally different corporate culture than my client.
Like my client’s factory, this company was clean, it had daily schedule boards, and tac-time clocks. Nothing earth shattering. Although both companies were in manufacturing and drew employees from the same surrounding region, it soon became obvious the two cultures were completely different.
The company we were visiting had a noticeably different vibe or buzz among the employees, and a lot more smiles. Most of the visitors passed it off as “being on their best behavior for the guests”.
Weeks afterwards the visiting team still talked about the culture they experienced, constantly comparing it with their own. Their commitment to reshaping culture gained momentum and the next several quarters saw a steady improvement in quality, waste and overall employee engagement. ”
A management team clueless about culture runs the risk of missing a valuable early warning mechanism for catching potential business productivity and revenue problems before they materialize. The diagram below describes the “knock-on effect” of culture on performance and how understanding the multiple culture drivers can act as an early warning system. Recognizing a downturn in culture or employee engagement early provides valuable time for leadership to develop countermeasures before productivity and profitability decline.
Whether consciously or unconsciously, every culture develops to fulfil a purpose. That purpose may be as simple as make a profit at all costs, to as noble and far-reaching as changing the way customers view the world. With this insight, it is easy to see that every culture is perfectly aligned with its real purpose. And in many cases, the problem is not with the culture or the people in the company, but with the overall purpose of the company in the first place.
For more information or to request a demo on how mapping culture drivers can improve business results, contact us here.