The World Has Changed – Has Your Corporate Culture Process?
“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
– Carlos Castenada
If you’re feeling like the world is moving faster, you’re right.
Measurements made in Greenland by the Danish Meteorological Institute showed that the magnetic north pole is moving northwards at 20km a year, 10 percent faster than 12 months prior, according to a report in the British magazine Physics World.
How does this relate to the culture change process in your organization?
While the North Pole change may be obscure and imperceptible, what you probably do notice is that it’s gotten harder to lead in an era of greater competition, customer demands for more value with less cost, and tougher access to credit. We are in a perfect storm of societal chaos and transformation based on the internet, shifting demographics, and globalization. No industry or company size is immune from the forces and trends that have made it much harder to lead a business and win in any market.
Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times author Thomas Friedman, in his groundbreaking expose of the new economy “The World is Flat,” sheds light on why. He named the current reality Globalization 3.0. “The dynamic force of Globalization 3.0 is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally. This phenomenon of individuals becoming super-empowered was enabled by a triple-convergence of the internet, fat digital pipelines, and standards for web-enabled workflow. The result? Individuals from every corner of the flat world are going to plug and play in ways that we have never imagined or seen.”
In Friedman’s flat world, “those who create value through leadership, relationships and creativity will transform their industries. Those who get caught in the past and resist change will be forced deeper into commoditization.”
In this changed world, the insanity of doing more of the same and expecting a different result is increasingly relevant. In that light, there are three important culture change process steps to get right:
- It is no longer leaders’ job to tell people what to do. In an adaptive organizational culture, leaders facilitate team collaboration, push decision rights down, and remove obstacles to execution. Command-and-control hierarchy still dominates as the prevalent leadership model, even as most leaders know it’s outdated. The problem with it? There’s increasing uncertainty and shorter time cycles to course correct a strategy – you can’t separate the person who makes decisions from those who execute. Many more leaders say they understand this than actually know what to do about it. The hallmark of a facilitative leadership environment is that day-to-day decision-making by line performers occurs in a situation where the strategic playbook is not a closely guarded secret.
- If you want to keep top talent, build an organizational culture where they want to stay. One of our clients said it best “Maybe right now people are sitting still. But I’m most worried about what happens when the economic picture brightens – are the people who will fuel our future growth really happy here? Will they be looking for other jobs in that situation?” Talented people have opportunities in any economy. They like to work in companies that value their contributions, make room for their opinions and input, make it easy to collaborate and get work done across boundaries, and foster a “happy” workplace environment.
- Transparency is crucial to the highest productivity. Employees and the regulatory environment of today call for employee involvement in matters that used to be the boardroom territory only: Strategy. Vision. Values. Financial performance. These are what give meaning to people’s work. Rare is the company that adequately communicates about what people really want to know: An inspiring description of where we are headed, a clear understanding of the game plan to win, and how success (and their career path) will be measured along the journey.
Even with compelling evidence that a corporate culture of engagement, transparency and collaboration is crucial, too many executives view it as “fluffy” or “black box” territory that has no direct influence on business performance. Or, they think HR owns the culture change management process, which relegates it to sure failure (no disrespect for our HR colleagues intended; you know it doesn’t work to for HR to lead culture change).
If that’s your view, consider this:
Competitive advantage is harder than ever to develop and hang onto. If you think it is enough to market or sell better than anyone else, have better connections, or are on top of the coolest new product – think again. The traditional S-curve of growth is shorter and steeper in every industry. Organizational culture is a source of competitive advantage that takes work to build but is very hard to copy. Ask Southwest Airlines and Zappos whether culture is bankable. Their investment in culture as a strategy has led them to far surpass profits and growth of other bigger competitors in very tough industries.
Leaders who learn what culture is, their responsibility in creating it, how to measure it, and how to make it a driver of business performance unleash commitment and energy across their workforce. as Friedman says, these are the change agents who will create value in our new economy and boldly transform their industries. In doing so, they increase horsepower and speed ahead of the competition without using more fuel.
Now there is something you can take to the bank.
Unless you’ll allow your competitors figure it out first.
Lisa Jackson is a corporate culture expert and co-author of 2 books including the popular “Culture Builder Toolkit: A Step-by-Step Guide for Assessing and Changing Corporate Culture.” She specializes in teaching companies and leaders how to align and transform their corporate culture to maximize profitable growth, productivity, and innovation.