Business Culture - How to create a great one

The year was 2005, I had suffered a pretty major back injury and had been through an epidural injection and several months of physical therapy. Those treatments had helped but had not given me 100% relief from pain. My physical therapist recommended acupuncture. Let's be clear about one thing… I despise needles, and I was skeptical. But, I wanted relief, so I went and I'm so thankful I did. I learned so much about myself and the human body in general, it was amazing. It had me second guessing my career choice, I was all in and wanted to learn as much as I could about the practice. What I didn't know is how much it would teach me about my actual profession, and the place and people that I work with!

The theory behind acupuncture is that an illness or ailment is presented in the body when it experiences an imbalance in energy between its emotional, spiritual, mental or physical states. The imbalance is remedied by inserting shallow needles into specific points along the meridians that carry energy throughout the body for a period of 40 minutes per visit. The number of visits is determined by the severity of the issue and the result you are trying to achieve. After the acute symptoms are resolved, ongoing maintenance is recommended in order to keep the body proactively functioning in harmony.

So what does this have to do with organizational culture? Let's take a look.

Commonalities

The four states of the human body are a lot like the four pillars of an organization: Maturity, Mission/Vision, Culture, and Structure. The maturity of the company refers to the length of time it has been in business and how developed it's processes and procedures are. The mission/vision conveys why a company is in business and the values by which it chooses to operate. The culture is the day-to-day hum of an organization, you can feel it as you walk the halls or interact with individuals and teams. And the structure is a deep dive into the org chart and whether or not the firm chooses to interact in a hierarchical nature, a matrix or a more flattened collaborative format. The solid or dotted lines in the org chart and between the other three pillars reflect the meridians in the body. When the energy of the company is not flowing well between those four pillars, the performance of the organization begins to suffer.

Symptoms

While there are many things that could cause an organization, or even just a subset (think line of business, department or team) of an organization to suffer, for the sake of example let's follow a few through a treatment plan.

  • Decreased customer satisfaction
  • Lower revenue
  • Communication decreases
  • Silos increase
  • Negativity spreads
  • Increased employee turnover
  • Increased costs

Potential Causes

Capture

Creating the Unified Ecosystem

So how do we get back to an organization with positive, proactive energy coursing through the meridians to and throughout the four pillars? Take a look at the checklist below to see if your firm, department or team is falling short in any one of these areas.

  • Mission/Vision. Make sure you have a clearly stated mission and vision that has been communicated (frequently) throughout the entire organization. Not only should it be communicated, but leadership should take care to ensure that each and every role in the company understands how it contributes to the bigger picture.
  • Every organization exists to serve a customer. So invest time in truly understanding who your customer is (sometimes they're internal). Develop personas, map out their journey(s) all the way from prospect to post-sale support. Would you want to do business with you?
  • Listen to your employees. They need to feel like they're making a difference, and if they don't they probably aren't. Be open to suggestions and be certain to provide feedback, even if it means telling them "thank you, but we can't tackle that right now".
  • Know your strengths AND your weaknesses. Revisit them every year and determine where it is feasible to take on new challenges. By the way there shouldn't be more than 2 or 3 at any given time. You can learn a lot from failure, so be vulnerable enough to investigate what happened and why by conducting lessons learned postmortems after each and every project or initiative.
  • Break down barriers. Between systems, tools and apps by integrating and/or replacing/eliminating them where possible. Between teams by promoting cross-team ownership of ongoing projects, processes and technology solutions. Between leadership and the front lines by using intranet and social features. By giving employees fewer places to go to share and find information, they can spend more time on things that are important instead of too much time searching for what they need to get their job done. And the things they will learn from one another while collaborating could spark the next innovative idea for the organization.
  • Embrace change. How comfortable an organization is with embracing and working through change speaks directly to leadership and culture. Nothing in business is constant, except the challenge of meeting a customer's needs. To that end, once you have defined/refined a process don't just set it and forget it, you should always be looking for ways to improve. And that means that you should always be measuring performance. Not just the performance of employees and things like revenue, expenses, and profit. It's too late to do anything once you have those numbers in hand. Focus on measuring the behaviors that drive the performance you're looking for throughout the entire organization. Set goals and hold one another accountable in meeting them.
  • Don't forget to celebrate. This is important. Your employees are human beings, you need to treat them that way. That means stopping the daily grind to recognize the hard work behind the achievements. Do it as a team, because you're all in it together. This helps people connect to that sense of purpose we talked about earlier. And it further enhances the relationships amongst colleagues.

It's a lot, I know. But you'll get there just like I did after 12 weeks of physical therapy and 16 weeks of acupuncture. Examine where you are, develop a roadmap of where you want to go, and outline the plan you'll take to get there. Make sure to refine it along the way as the business evolves, and you learn from mistakes. Need some help? We'd be happy to guide you, just reach out to us here!