Over the last few weeks we have been talking about culture building. The importance and who should be responsible for the building of it. Building culture takes time, commitment and determination and being deliberate about everything involved.
All those involved cannot afford to let it be handled by others. When this happens, they quickly find that what they are trying to build and what is actually being built have nothing in common.
With each group or function embracing its culture-building responsibilities, a healthy, well-aligned, effective culture improves business performance results. This has been found over and over by those who have taken time and effort to build. In times past when some big companies were trying to recover from financial stagnation or crisis, the board would drive the redefinition of the corporate purpose and then mandate the senior management team to pursue it.
We all should be looking to build a culture that is customer centric. Executives should set a new strategy to bolster customer experience. Some organisations go as far as creating a new group customer director or manager role. They then identify organization-wide customer-first behaviours that were incorporated into employee performance reviews, manager feedback systems, and an all-employee survey. To further operationalize the values of the new culture, we may need to roll out a new operating model and create new governance models.
These are possible widespread changes that should spawn a new culture throughout the organization. Everyone begins to take responsibility for their decisions, starting with the CEO. Executive management should make it clear that everyone can speak their minds and that nobody would be blamed for giving bad news. This all however cascades from the vision
The shift to a culture-building approach based on shared-responsibility both reflects and requires changes in organisational culture and its impact on the business.
The new approach shows that organisational culture has become less a code established by leaders and more of a toolkit for all to draw from and input to. As the authors of a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review paper observe, “Culture persists only because people act in ways that uphold its principles and codes.” As employees engage with the culture as a resource from which to shape their skills and habits instead of a mandate decreed by top managers, culture becomes “expressed and reified through practice.”
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A company’s culture needs to be adaptable. There are many external factors exerting pressure on any business as well as internal changes such as leadership transitions and expansions. The culture needs to change to keep up with these changes. Attempts to lock in a certain type of culture over the long term at best will fail, at worst, will hinder the organization’s competitiveness and sustainability.
This points to a key requirement of the shared-responsibility approach to culture-building. Changes to the culture must be explicitly communicated and vetted by all. Everyone may not agree with the changes, but they must understand them and agree to support them.
To achieve the desired culture, everyone must have a clear, consistent, common understanding of it — and everyone must work together in a deliberate and coordinated effort to cultivate it. While each person or group is accountable in their own way, everyone shares accountability for achieving the desired culture.
The new job of the CEO and senior management team is not to hand company culture down from on high but to prioritize it and allocate the resources to ensure it.
This culture building is also in families and other social groups. This is even relevant in nation-building. In a world where almost anything goes and I can be imbibing another culture alien to mine on my smart phone, we are all responsible for reinforcing the culture we want. The culture that we have all agreed will work best for us. This will help stave off the hunger for other less desirable cultures seeping into and diluting our culture.
Next week we will be moving on to another aspect of organisation building from an HRM point of view. Have a great weekend and please look critically at the culture you practise now. Is it what you desire or just what you have found yourself in.