If you haven't heard that "Culture eats strategy for breakfast," you may have been living under a rock (or under your desk) for the last year. So, yeah, everyone knows that organization culture really matters. But what makes it so key? And what can you do about it?
Working with senior executives of early-stage and mid-sized companies, I have a lot of conversations with leaders about the culture of their organization, and whether it's "good." We talk about how behaviors shape culture, how culture in turn shapes everyone’s behavior, how it reflects the real values of an organization (whether we like it or not), and how every process and practice in the company is either reinforcing or diverting from the desired culture. And then we talk about how theirs isn’t quite what they wish it were.
Most of our conversations include these four elements:
Your culture probably doesn’t suck, but if it does, even a little, it’s probably because:
And … if the shoe fits … when you’re pushing for execution, you may be trashing your culture instead of harnessing its power, and everyone knows that. (Thanks, Pam!)
What really matters about culture is that it gives the ‘rules of the road’ that accelerate your organization’s success. It should clearly reflect the values you “pay a price” to live by. It should give everyone in the company easy shorthand for knowing how to belong, how to work together, how to treat customers and colleagues, and how to achieve shared priorities. And it should just as easily let everyone know what’s not acceptable, so people can self-select in or out.
If you’re thinking that some things about your culture suck, let me suggest something you can try right now. Figure out where you can start to make a difference, whether it’s owning up to your part (are you taking credit for someone else’s work), or getting real about what your culture actually is (who got that last bonus or promotion, and would you wish for dozens more just like them?).
Your company’s culture is evolving whether you’re paying attention to it or not. A little intention can go a long way toward providing the boost you need!