Do you fully understand your culture and how it’s impacting performance? Are you managing a clear journey to effectively evolve your culture with a direct and sustainable impact on performance? There aren’t many leaders that can confidently answer “yes” to these two questions. We see culture tips and advice at every turn that range from superficial to endlessly complicated. If you are like me, it’s hard to understand what to believe.
Focusing on a “critical few” behaviors is one of the fundamental tenets of working effectively with organizational culture. These are patterns of acting that are actionable, highly visible, and measurable. Most important, adopting these behaviors has a meaningful impact on an organization’s strategic and operational objectives. The behaviors are critical because they will have a significant impact on business performance when exhibited by large numbers of people; they are few because people can really only remember and change three to five key behaviors at one time.
In initial conversations with company executives, 92 times out of 100, they’ll call us and say something like, “We’ve heard you’re culture change experts and we need to change our culture. We’re thinking we want it to be more fun like that Tony what-his-name guy’s company—umm, Zappos. Can you do a “we ‘heart’ employees” (I say tongue-in-cheek) campaign or something to help us with that?”
What do you think about this statement?
Invoking a more strategic mode of behavior is a sure path to more social or material benefit.
When I ask this question, I usually see hesitance or reluctance. People really start pondering. Interestingly, asked in a workplace environment, the answer is eventually in support of the statement; though the magnitude of the expected benefit varies. Moreover, the answers correlate quite considerably with the hierarchy-level. Upper levels are clearly much more convinced of it than lower levels. And there is less support in private settings as well.