Culture, it is something leaders must develop within their organizations to achieve world class. It is also one of the most daunting tasks a new or existing leader must confront within their society. This is the first step, to have a perspective of society and not a perspective of organization. Changing culture might have the effect of changing the organization structure but it is the people who will accept or hang on to an existing culture. It is extremely difficult to change because it can stem from many years of development.
Take the historical examples of the French society within Canada and the American civil war. Since the first European settlement (New France) in Canada, around 1605, a French society has continued a want for a sovereign country. The latest effort was the Quebec sovereignty movement referendum in 1980. This stems from cultural, social, and political differences. This culture continues with some parts of the society today. The civil war ended in 1865 with a violent conclusion and the North and South developed into two distinct and very different regions.
President Lincoln tried various policies to restore Union held areas of the Confederacy to their “proper relationship” with the federal government. To most of these people Reconstruction meant the period of federal intervention in the South. This concern of federal government intervention remains today. These cultural examples, of course, are outside of any specific business organization but they are examples of; once a culture is established it is extremely difficult to change. The advantage a business organization has is the societies are small. The environment, communication, attitudes, values, knowledge, and motives can all be influenced in a relative shorter period of time if certain steps are taken. Here are four must steps to develop the required business culture for achieving both a competitive advantage and engaged employees:
1. Start with a single focus strategy. Strategies like “We want to be the best in low cost, quality, and service”, is ambiguous for most of the people. Which one is it during decision time? Determine which element of the business, if achieved, would also improve other key elements of the business. Herb Kelleher who was one of the founders of Southwest Airlines maintained and based all of the organizations decisions on the single focus strategy of “Southwest is THE low fare airline”. He would tell his employees I can teach you to be CEO of Southwest Airlines in 5 minutes and he would then tell them they just had to base their decisions on this single focus strategy.
2. Establish a Management Steering Team consisting of all departmental leaders. The Management Steering Team is responsible for the governance of the organization. The departmental managers are the first society who must be committed to the single focus strategy and an aligned culture. On the very first meeting of this steering team get each departmental manager to describe the culture within their departments. How do they make decisions, what motivates their team, what are their values, how do they share knowledge, and how is this different from the organization overall and why?
3. Describe what the expected culture is. Is it continuous improvement, customer focused, learning, innovative, collaboration, external relationships, transformational, or hierarchy? First and foremost you must align your company culture with your single focus strategy and the goals within that strategy. Brainstorm with your management steering team to understand what it will look like, how it will change habits, the standard to set, how people will react, and what and how people will learn. What will be the future state?
4. Communication. The communication of both the single focus strategy and the expected culture has to be daily. It is the responsibility of the Management Steering Team. It is most effective when integrated with Standard Work for Managers. While on their daily Gemba walk all managers must have developed standard work to execute. They must be looking for opportunities to communicate and model the culture. Actively listening and observing behavior. Knowledge sharing is part of the standard work, what the organization has to learn in order to develop the expected culture. A visual value stream is installed where results of the strategy are continuously updated so real time decisions and road block removal can be accomplished at a fast pace. Visual management can also promote culture through symbols like logo’s, uniforms, and types of rewards for high performers. The Nike “swoosh” symbol and the “Just Do It” logo has come to stand for athletic excellence and achievement and a spirit of determination.
As the leader take some time to determine your organization’s culture, is it aligned? These four steps are required and if followed will lead you to a culture of achievement.