An article by Ross Woodstock in the Greater Lansing Business Monthly looks at why great company culture is good business.
Every organization has a culture. For some of the more analytical minds out there, the notion of discussing culture is one of those concepts that may seem too "soft" and not something that should be on the radar. I would argue the opposite. I believe the importance of organizational culture is often undervalued, and there is ample evidence that strongly supports the idea that a winning culture will drive positive results for your organization.
There are many reasons why a winning culture is good for your business. One can start by considering the impact that culture has on the bottom line. In his book Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit, author Jim Stengel studied the world's 50 best businesses and came to the conclusion that those who centered their business on a culture that benefited people had a growth rate triple that of their competition. Similarly, a survey conducted a few years ago by Bain & Company revealed that 91 percent of the 1,200 senior executives surveyed agreed that "culture is as important as strategy for business success." Another Bain survey reported that 81 percent of executives felt that a company without a winning culture was "doomed to mediocrity." It's much easier to establish a winning culture if you are starting a new business.
Changing a culture is more challenging, but can be done if senior executives institute the changes, and recognize that cultural change is not an overnight job. In either case, there are seven key steps you'll want to take to create and sustain a winning culture. Define what a good culture looks like for your organization. Author Stephen Covey popularized the technique of starting with the end in mind. This is a great topic for a team brainstorming session. What are the characteristics of a great culture? Suggestions might include: senior leadership is competent and cares about employees; teamwork exists at every level of the organization; team members have a genuine concern for each other; innovation is constantly encouraged; listening is more highly valued than giving directives; there are ample opportunities for career growth and job development. Perform a culture audit. This would be part two of your brainstorming session.
Honestly evaluate how your organization stacks up in all of the areas your team has defined as essential to a great culture. Score it on a 1 to 10 scale. Agree on priority changes that need to be made. Establish a strategy and timetable. Ask each team member to make specific commitments they are willing to contribute. Warning: this can be painful. Communicate your vision. It's one thing to have mission and vision statements. Your team members, vendors and customers should understand the priorities, values and principles on which you operate. Remember that people will follow what you do, not what you say. Get the team on board. Each team member must accept responsibility for his or her role in the success of the organization. Set high standards and expectations. Your customers will notice.
Insist on accountability. Nothing erodes an ambitious agenda faster than the failure to hold all team members accountable for their performance. Hold regular reviews that focus on each department's performance versus the targets that were established. Praise the wins. Identify the problems areas and establish strategies for improvement. Above all else, be consistent in how every team member is held accountable. Develop. Develop. Develop. Leaders that are relentlessly committed to training and development of every team member will have followers that are relentlessly committed to the organization. Great people want to work in organizations that are committed to their growth and success. Celebrate success. Culture change is a long process. You'll want sustained communication with your employees and customers to maintain positive momentum. People want to feel excited about the organization's progress and in knowing that they have had a stAke in that success.
Development of a winning culture is a long road filled with many challenges. It requires senior leaders willing to change their way of thinking and team members willing to change their attitudes and practices.
Culture should be built around something other than just making a profit. However, implemented properly, a winning culture will be profitable in just about every measurable way, including the bottom line.