Culture for Sale! Have I Got a Deal for You!

By Chris Bachinski written about 7 months ago

For Sale to a Good Company: One Corporate Culture (2010 Model)

Comes fully loaded with engaged employees and high discretionary effort (the act of going above and beyond, not because they have to, but because they want to) along with a competitive differentiation, a strong brand, a strategic plan and satisfied customers. Will also throw in a pool table, beer keg and cappuccino machine. Selling this gently used culture, as we are upgrading to 2017 model and don’t have room for both.

If only it were that easy!

Today’s progressive-minded CEOs and business leaders are recognizing the power of culture. Those who have successfully harnessed that power are reaping the rewards. An intentional corporate culture is a fundamental competitive advantage. Your competitors might copy your product, your service and your price, but a strong intentional culture is yours – and yours alone.

A culture exists at your company today – regardless of whether you are intentional about defining and shaping it. Why leave something with so much potential to impact your business up to chance?

“So,” you say, “Let’s give it to HR!”

No! Contrary to what you might imagine, it is not enough just to have a bunch of happy employees singing Kumbaya. Human resources may have a large role in the implementation and ongoing care of your culture but culture is driven from the top. It is up to your senior leaders to define what the culture should be and live it out on a daily basis.

Where do you start?

Step 1: Understand what your culture looks like today.

Culture and brand are two sides of the same coin. It is not enough to simply say who you are, you have to embody it, both the inside and out. What insiders (employees) think and feel about the company is your culture. What outsiders (customers and the general public) think and feel about the company is your brand. So what are your employees saying at the water cooler about your company? What do your customers say about their experiences? Are the two aligned? What about your senior management team – are your team members speaking what they think? Are they aligned with your brand?

Step 2: Decide what type of culture you want.

What is your mission and vision for the future, your organization’s purpose beyond just making money? Who is your key focus as you work toward your goals: employees, customers or shareholders? Obviously, you care about all three of these groups, but challenge yourself to pick one – and only one. Do that, and the others will follow tenfold.

Step 3: Identify the gaps between where your culture is now, and where you want it to go.

Do a cultural exorcism. If there were one behavior you could eliminate from your culture, what would it be?

Use the RAAT model to uncover gaps in your responsibility, authoritative decision-making, accountability and transparency – the four key elements in a culture.

  1. Responsibility – Who’s responsible for making decisions and producing results in your organization? Does everyone have the same understanding of who the responsible party is?
  2. Authority – Is your decision-making process clear? Are your employees aligned or are there bottlenecks in the process?
  3. Accountability – Does everyone in the organization follow through on his or her commitments? No one is perfect, so how well do employees hold each other accountable when commitments are broken?
  4. Transparency – How does your organization decide when and what information is shared with the rest of the company? Do you have a lot of closed-door meetings or are your company salaries published for everyone to see?
Step 4: Create short-term and long-term plans to begin to drive change.

What are the key objectives that need to be met in order to start creating your desired culture? What are the tactics that can be slowly implemented to begin the journey?

Step 5: As CEO, appoint a team lead (or leads).

Ensure they are given the proper authority, and then hold them accountable to becoming ambassadors of your intentional culture tactics. These are the people who will ensure your culture change initiative is not just another flavor of the month.

Step 6: Declare it!

Get up in front of your people and own past shortcomings. Then, communicate the desired culture of tomorrow, and celebrate the beginning of a journey. Encourage your employees to hold you accountable.

Step 7: Make culture part of your strategic planning.

Your responsibility doesn’t end at the employee kick-off. For culture to be part of your competitive advantage, it needs to be part of your strategic planning.

Step 8: Celebrate six months later when everything is perfect.

No! Your desired culture will not pop up overnight. A big part of being intentional is walking it out. Throughout the journey, regularly review your progress. At a minimum check your pulse with your employees and customers: “Are we closing the gap between us and our desired culture?”

It would be great if you could simply buy the perfect culture but that is just not reality. You can, however, intentionally invest in one. If you do, expect double-digit returns and an advantage your competitors simply don’t have.

Start with a Cultural Assessment