As a leader, which is more important to focus on, strategy or culture? It’s a question I’m often asked and my clients have typically found that while strategy is the easiest to work on, culture actually yields the biggest results.
Your organization’s underlying culture drives bigger results because it’s the identity, personality and soul of your company. At it’s core, culture influences the attitudes, beliefs and psychology of your team.
I’m sure you’ve heard Henry Ford’s famous saying before, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” This same type of mindset affects your organization.
In personal psychology, there is no force greater than the need to remain consistent with our identity and the same holds true for your team. Elevate the identity, or the culture of your team and you elevate its performance.[bctt tweet=”Elevate the identity, or the culture of your team and you elevate its performance.” username=”markatrisepg”]
Former Merck CEO Richard Clark said, “The fact is, culture eats strategy for lunch. You can have a good strategy in place, but if you don’t have the culture and the enabling systems that allow you to successfully implement that strategy, the culture of the organization will defeat the strategy.”
The importance of a winning culture was underscored in Bain & Company’s 2008 worldwide survey of management tools and trends which found that 91% of the 1,200 senior executives at global companies surveyed agreed that “culture is as important as strategy for business success.”
Additionally, another Bain survey reported that 81% of executives agreed that a company without a winning culture was “doomed to mediocrity.”
So what defines culture and how can you be intentional about creating the right culture for your organization? Here are 4 ways to design a culture that will enable you to reach your organization’s true potential.
- Define the Culture You Desire
Look at your mission and vision and ask, who do we need to be to make that vision a reality? Culture is best designed together, so work with your team and identify the behaviors that are going to help you achieve your organizational goals.
A good starting place might be a culture of accountability, innovation and teamwork. However, consider that Zappos built a $1 billion company selling shoes by intentionally building a culture that was fun and weird. This highlights the fact that successful cultures are deeply personal. What works for one company won’t necessarily work for another.
Ask yourself, “What characteristics of our culture that exist today are working well for us?” Preserve these personality traits as you determine how you want to shape your culture.
- Intentionally Live the Behaviors You Identify
For each culture trait you identify, develop stories and illustrations that describe what the behavior is and what the behavior is not. For example, if one of your culture values is having fun, what does that mean in the context of your organization? Is it fun when you are winning? Is it fun when you celebrate birthdays and other events? Or, is it fun because we are wild and crazy in our approach to solving problems? Or is it all three?
My point is that Fun, Weird, Accountable, Teamwork and Innovative can mean different things to different people. The clearer you can be in your description, the higher the probability that you can manifest the behavior in your organization.
- Reinforce Your Culture Through Systems, Rituals and Routines
Simply defining your culture traits isn’t enough. You must build systems, rituals and routines that reinforce the behaviors that are critical to the culture you want to create. For example, if you want to create an ownership mentality then create a consistent routine of committing to results and then reporting on the results generated.
The process of committing to outcomes forces a deep understanding of the business. Reporting the performance against the commitment reinforces ownership. Asking what potential barriers to success exist creates the habit of anticipation. Anticipation is critical in creating a culture of accountability and innovation. [bctt tweet=”The process of committing to outcomes forces a deep understanding of the business. ” username=”markatrisepg”]
- Make Your Culture Visible
Use symbols, stories, pictures, awards and scoreboards to visually reinforce what is most important in your organization. If you want a customer-centric culture do you have pictures of happy customers and employees displayed in your organization? Are you building legendary stories that demonstrate your commitment to customers? Do you have an employee award tied to great customer service? Are you using a tool like Net Promoter Score to systemically measure client satisfaction and are you consistently updating a scoreboard with your results?
Implementing these four strategies to intentionally build culture in your organization will lead to material and strategic improvements in the performance of your organization.