There are three legs to the stool of running every organization.
1. Strategy: The decision on positioning, differentiation and direction.
2. Operations: The management of processes, people, positions, right people in the right seats doing the right work in the right way.
3. Culture: How people treat each other and customers. The decisions about what the priorities are around the values for the organization. The priority of the employees, customers, service, etc.
Each area has specific objectives that must be set, and most companies do a good job of setting productivity objectives and growth targets, but one of the most frequently missing set of objectives is the essential area of cultural objectives.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker
Every company has a culture, whether it is on purpose or by accident is another question. Most every company could greatly improve its culture, but until management shows the priority that culture has in their growth strategy by clarifying cultural objectives, the work hasn’t begun.
First the leadership must envision what the highest potential for the culture can be. The vision question: “What do you want this place to look like, feel like, smell like and sound like?” can help to elicit some of the first points for direction. Painting a clear picture of how you want the culture to be and then frequently communicating that picture is a duty of every leader.
In a turnaround, bringing the culture back into line is usually one of the first priorities, but even in healthy companies, there is often a need to eradicate fear and turnaround attitudes. In challenging economies or intensified competition, many employees assume the worst. Gossip and fear mongering are a major and frequent enemy to growth. These major violations of a company’s values need to be nipped in the bud. Leaders must tell the truth, including the good news about the relative health of a company and its realistic opportunities. An honest sense of job security must consistently be maintained with clear communication about the facts behind the health of a company and the value it puts on its employees.
Creating, updating and reinforcing values is absolutely essential to getting the culture in shape. The values are the 10 commandments of your culture. Although they can be as simple as “respect, service and innovation,” usually six to 10 character qualities for the individuals and organization with explanation for what they mean is a good start.
Reinforcement of the values and recognizing, rewarding and celebrating the avatars of the values is the beginning of sustainment. Catching people doing something right on a regular basis is more valuable than only pointing out the violations. One client of ours required managers to recognize every direct report for giving some positive display every month. That takes a lot of effort, but the results can be significant. Another client recognizes a few employees every month in front of the entire company for great examples of living out the culture and values.
If you recently compiled your company objectives and you’re missing cultural objectives, go back to the drawing board and clarify what you want and need in the organization’s culture to be in order for it to be optimized and empower your people to make the changes needed to get it into shape.
On the platform with a president of one of the oldest Fortune 500’s, I asked what were the highest priority keys to such a long running and successful company and how did managing the values and culture play into his role. He said, “The values are the key to our success, and maintaining them and reinforcing them is my highest priority.”
Mark Faust is a growth advisor, professional speaker and founder of Echelon Management International, a growth and turnaround consulting firm. His new book "Growth or Bust! Proven Turnaround Strategies To Grow Your Business" is available at all Barnes and Noble stores or contact 513.791.5158 or MDavis@BN.com for quantity discounts.