Should your company be striving for the type of advantage that has become the hallmarks of Amazon, Google and Facebook? In the tech world, it’s hard to imagine success without quick and continuous technological improvement. But, in the frantic race for product or service superiority, another advantage is often overlooked – company culture.
It doesn’t matter whether you sell information or cremation, the right kind of organizational culture can bolster and sustain a company’s performance.
We’re going to accelerate your organizational culture change education with this post. Every leader will benefit from understanding the following critical insights about culture and problem solving, change, engagement, strategy, hiring, and consulting shared by Edgar Schein, Professor Emeritus with MIT Sloan School of Management and the most influential authority in the culture field.
I first interviewed Ed when this site was launched in 2014 and we held a very thorough follow-up interview last year. Ed is continuing to make an impact in the culture field and beyond. He recently formed the Schein Organizational Culture and Leadership Institute. The Institute is dedicated to advancing organizational development through a deeper understanding of organizational and occupational cultures—how they arise, develop, and evolve.
We started this interview with a brief review of culture fundamentals and then probed the connection of culture and important culture-related workplace topics like engagement, hiring for cultural fit and strategy. Culture clearly impacts these areas but the connection is not widely understood and it’s often oversimplified.
I was delighted to recently attend an event at Chief Executive Group honoring our long-time client and my personal friend, L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner, with a lifetime achievement award. There are many company and CEO awards, and Les has been the recipient of many, but this one stood out for me as deeply significant and highly deserving.
The day after this event, I was struck by the comment by Jim Cramer that Les is “Dean of Everything in retailing,” and the notion that he is certainly a leader with much to teach the world.
The longest-serving CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Les is nothing short of an American business legend.
When you know that your company will never be the low-cost producer nor will it ever have enough cash to outspend the big cat, there’s no choice but to find other ways to skin that cat. Thousands of small to medium sized businesses are successfully doing this. “How?” you ask. The answer lies within those factors that do not require fat bank accounts. There are far more than you think.
I’ll start with leadership. A good CEO costs no more than a bad one – sometimes far less when you consider costly mistakes and lucrative severance packages. The same argument can be made for strategies. The very best strategies aren’t generated by outside strategic planning consultants who bill thousands of dollars a day. These strategies come from the inquisitive mindsets of founders, entrepreneurs, and employees who are keen to make a difference.
When you think about companies that provide an incredible customer experience, it’s no coincidence they are the exact same companies that have amazing cultures. Think Southwest Airlines, Ritz Carlton, Zappos, Nordstroms…great customer service and great workplace cultures since culture is the ultimate driver of a sustainably exceptional customer experience.
“Customer experience” is a hot subject these days but many organizations continue to put their front line employees in the middle of a horrible customer experience and their employees are sick of being in that position.
It’s not good enough to have a great product or service; you need an exceptional customer experience.