Culture can be defined as an evolving set of collective beliefs, values and attitudes. Culture is a key component in business and has an impact on the strategic direction of business . Culture influences management, decisions and all business functions from accounting to production. Development grows out of culture.
Your culture determines how your strategy plays out.
1. Vision: A great culture starts with a vision or mission statement.
These simple turns of phrase guide a company’s values and provide it with purpose . That purpose, in turn, orients every decision employees make. When they are deeply authentic and prominently displayed, good vision statements can even help orient customers, vendors, and all connected to the company. Nonprofits often excel at having compelling, simple vision statements . The Alzheimer’s Association, for example, is dedicated to “a world without Alzheimer’s.” And Oxfam envisions “a just world without poverty.” A vision statement is a simple but foundational element of culture.
2. Values: A company’s values are the core of its culture.
While a vision articulates a company’s purpose, values offer a set of guidelines of the behaviors and mindsets needed to achieve that vision. McKinsey & Company, for example, has a clearly articulated set of values that are clearly communicated to all employees and involve the way that company chooses to serve clients, treat colleagues, and uphold professional standards. Google’s values might be best articulated by their famous phrase, “Don’t be evil.” But they are also enshrined in their “ten things we know to be true.” And while many companies find their values revolve around a few simple topics (employees, clients, professionalism, etc.), the originality of those values is less important than their authenticity.
Practices: Values are of little importance unless they
are embodied in a company’s practices.
If an organization professes, “people are our greatest asset,” it should also be ready to invest in people in visible ways. Wegmans, for example, heralds values like “caring” and “respect,” promising prospects “a job [they’ll] love.” And it follows through in its company practices, ranked by Fortune as the fifth best company to work for . Similarly, if an organization values “flat” hierarchy, it must encourage more junior team members to dissent in discussions without fear or negative repercussions. Whatever an organization’s values, they must be reinforced in review criteria and promotion policies, and baked into the operating principles of daily life in the company.
company can build a coherent culture without people who either share its core
values or possess the willingness and ability to embrace those values.
This is why the greatest firms in the world also have some of the most stringent recruiting policies. According to Charles Ellis, as noted in a recent review of his book What it Takes: Seven Secrets of Success from the World’s Greatest Professional Firms , the best firms are “fanatical about recruiting new employees who are not just the most talented, but also the best suited to a particular corporate culture.” Ellis highlights that those firms often have 8-20 people interview each candidate. As an added benefit, Steven Hunt notes at Monster.com that one study found applicants who were a cultural fit would accept a 7% lower salary, and departments with cultural alignment had 30% less turnover. People stick with cultures they like, and bringing on the right “culture carriers” reinforces the culture an organization already has.
5. Narrative: Any organization has a unique history — a unique story.
The ability to unearth that history and craft it into a narrative is a core element of culture creation. The components of that narrative can be formal — like Coca-Cola, which dedicated an enormous resource to celebrating its heritage and even has a World of Coke museum in Atlanta — or informal, like those stories about how Steve Jobs’ early fascination with calligraphy shaped the aesthetically oriented culture at Apple. But they are more powerful when identified, shaped, and retold as a part of a firm’s ongoing culture. Telling the story is essential to growing the culture.
6. Place: The place shapes the culture.
Why does Pixar have a huge open atrium engineering an environment where firm members run into each other throughout the day and interact in informal, unplanned ways? Why does Mayor Michael Bloomberg prefer his staff sit in a “bullpen” environment, rather than one of separate offices with soundproof doors? And why do tech firms cluster in Silicon Valley and financial firms cluster in London and New York? There are obviously multiple answers to each of these questions, but one clear answer is that workplaces are an expression of the culture. Open architecture is more conducive to certain office behaviors, like collaboration. Certain cities and countries have local cultures that may reinforce or contradict the culture a firm is trying to create. Place — whether geography, architecture, or aesthetic design — impacts the values and behaviors of people in a workplace.
From preschool to college to professional organizations,
whenever people gather together to converse, problem-solve or collaborate,
there is a unique group culture. We can
all identify particularly positive and strikingly negative group-think
experiences. What I have come to realize
is that there are some universal keys to unlocking the true potential of a
group in a way that makes everyone feel like both a contributor and a
Regular participation is a critical component to growing in relationship and understanding. Group discussions usually build on one another and there are nuances to dialog that simply cannot be captured in meeting notes. There is also an intangible element to having all the personalities in the room. The most effective groups have regular attendees who play off of one another.
Along with consistency, make the commitment to be “present” when you physically show up. This means eliminating distractions, being prepared to discuss the agenda items and having both your heart and your head engaged in the conversation.
Vulnerability may take time to establish in group, but the more open and honest each member is in sharing challenges, weaknesses, lack of understanding or personal hurdles, the more the rest of the group can rally to provide solutions, strength, insight and counsel.
Trusting that it is a safe place to openly share ideas and/or voice concerns as you work through issues and identify opportunities is essential to thriving. The healthiest groups will develop a culture of honor and mutual respect. The facilitator should establish boundaries, so that information and vulnerabilities are not discussed beyond the meeting – this includes peer-to-peer conversations and parking lot confabs.
The most potent group cultures assemble individuals who each bring unique communication styles, personalities, giftings, and experiences to the table. Not only is generating input from various perspectives an effective tool in breaking thru to solutions, it also helps round out discussions and strengthen overall outcomes.
The reality is that culture builds over time – it cannot be accelerated or achieved through meeting notes – it can only truly be established by time together. Strong leaders know that they need to be life-long learners and open to continually developing themselves as much as their teams, organizations and products. There are many facilitated peer-to-peer advisory groups and/or coaching programs available to business professionals. Regardless of where you are in your journey, I encourage to explore your options and find a personal development track where you can not only grow, but invest in others via a group environment.
After a long day through the winding mountains of West
Virginia on a market ride with a client, the only thing I was ready to do was
sleep, but there was a bigger agenda at work.
I awoke around 2 a.m. and begin feverishly writing out a vision and
structure for an organization that would shamelessly be “the most connected
non-profit in the world.” That was five
years ago …
While the download came at 2 a.m. the seed had been planted a few days earlier as I sat comfortably on a church pew listening to the worship rise around me. I looked around thinking about each person’s story and wondering where they were in their lives. Recently, I had been faced with a series of encounters that made me question how people just ended up in their life. Jobs versus careers. Marriages versus relationships. Paycheck-to-paycheck versus financial stability. I considered my life with my strong, lovely wife of 20+ years, my three boys launching into adulthood, my home, business, circle of friends and sense of inner peace.
I was overwhelmed with a call to help people realize the lives that God intended for them. At that moment, I had no idea how I would even begin to accomplish such a lofty aspiration and over the next several years, I tried to string together various versions of Connection Mission by hosting fundraising events, coaching individuals and sponsoring missions activities, then I stumbled across the revelation received by Loren Cunningham (founder of Youth with a Mission ) and Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ ) in 1975 regarding the seven mountains of culture and suddenly it became clear that Connection Mission was a training ground for these seven mountains.
Now, any good mountain guide will tell you that preparation is a key element of the journey. It may have taken us a while to settle in to exactly how Connection Mission would look, but the mission remains unchanged – Unlocking true potential by helping people realize the life that God intended for them. This, fueled by the audacious belief that anything is possible, is my personal quest and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead!