HR has always appeared to be the natural home for the mechanics of leading culture change. In recent years, however, I’ve observed another human resource in the executive team. A person whose influence over culture is potentially the most powerful of all: The Chief Financial Officer.
There’s a silent power within your organization that’s quietly moulding the patterns of behavior that will determine your culture. A survey probably won’t detect it, but identifying and shifting it will have a significant impact on performance. We’re not talking about values or behaviors here, but something far less universal and more specific to individual organizations. The dominant, but tacit, influencer that has the capacity to both limit and liberate a business: our shared organizational beliefs.
Leaders will often ask me what they can do to accelerate a change in their culture. As someone who likes to find ways to provide simplicity on seemingly complex and theoretical topics, I’ve long been searching for that mythical ‘one thing’ that will make the most difference. I think I’ve found it. I’ll be interested to hear if you agree with me.
Simple has been one of my mantras. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there you can move mountains.
What Steve Jobs understood, that many others do not, is that it takes much more effort to achieve simplicity than it does to achieve complexity. Everything naturally expands towards the complex, unless very tightly driven the other way, and cultures are no different.
If you are reading this post we can assume you think culture is important. But investment in culture lags behind some of the other key contributors to performance: Brand, people, technology, process. So perhaps culture’s impact on performance is not universally believed. Executives have to focus first and foremost on those elements which will deliver the best return to their shareholders. There is a community of investment professionals who spend their lives considering company valuations and whose opinion holds considerable sway on share price.