Michael D. Moberly December 31, 2013 ‘A blog where attention span matters’.
Congratulations to management teams globally who recognize the importance of achieving a high performing company culture. It is a worthy and generally lucrative strategic goal and a valuable intangible asset, which in today’s increasingly competitive, aggressive, and globally predatorial business development and transaction environment are integral.
The underlying rationale for establishing a high performing company culture is rooted in the economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for sustainable growth and profitability, either lie in or directly evolve from internally produced or externally acquired intangible assets.
Of course, merely achieving a high performing company culture is insufficient standing alone. It must be sustainable and strategic in orientation. That is, the culture itself requires consistent monitoring, nurturing, assessment, and be sufficiently adaptive to accommodate business development and transaction circumstances companies encounter globally.
Actually achieving a high performance company culture however is variously dependent on factors such as…
- a company’s industry sector.
- the types of transactions a company typically engages, i.e., what works, what does not work.
- the operating philosophy a company’s employees, and stakeholders have grown accustom, i.e., how things get done, how decisions get made.
- a company’s (management team) receptivity to and operational familiarity with intangible assets in terms of
- how it recognizes, develops, and utilizes its intellectual, structural, and relationship capital.
- behaviors expressed through intellectual, structural, and relationship capital, i.e., what gets rewarded, how, and when.
While these and other factors will influence the outcome, of course, a key to building a high performance company culture is ensuring management teams have clearly defined…
- where their company is headed strategically, which starts by identifying
- specific destination points,
- a time frame that it wishes (needs to, should) to arrive at those destination points, and
- what resources are required and how those resources will be utilized to arrive at the destination points within the time frame.
The specifics of a high performing culture are generally nuanced to every company because they are based on what appears to work best and get a company to where it’s strategic plan intends for it to go within the parameters management teams have defined. I just don’t believe there is ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to culture building.
I believe, somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’, Torbin Rick, an internationally recognized management specialist poses some salient questions in his December 13th blog post, i.e., is company culture
- the driving the strategy, or is it undermining it, or is
- culture more important than strategy?
In support of his analysis, Rick identifies ten key elements in creating a high performance culture which he suggests will probably ‘fit’ most companies…
1. Clearly defining what winning looks like…
This can be achieved by looking across the entire company, then defining what it looks like from various functional perspectives, i.e., sales, marketing, customer service, procurement, finance etc.
2. Spelling out the “preferred culture”…
In much the same way that company leaders shape and communicate their company’s vision, a ‘preferred culture’ may consist of a set of guiding principles and/or (sought after) values. However, the best, Rick suggests, go further by establishing ‘preferred behaviors’ that support the ‘preferred culture’. This occurs by identifying and assessing particular aspects/facets of a company’s current culture that leaders are satisfied with, while also asking…
- which additional preferred behaviors does the company need to create for their preferred culture?
- what behaviors are actually being rewarded and which unacceptable behaviors are merely being tolerated here?
- how does the company measure each of their preferred behaviors?
3. Setting stretch targets…
In most instances, employees rise to the standard being set for them. The more a company and its management team expects, in most instances the more they will likely achieve. But there is a fine line, Rick points out between good stretch targets and bad ones. The good ones of course can energize a company, while the bad ones can dampen morale on an enterprise wide basis.
4. Connecting to the big picture…
The majority of employees want to be a part of a compelling future, Rick adds, and want to know what is most important at work and what excellence actually looks like. For targets to be meaningful and effective in motivating employees must be connected to a company’s larger (strategic) goals.
Employees who don’t understand the role they play in company successes are more likely to become disengaged. No matter what level an employee is at, she should be able to articulate, with precision, how their efforts feed into their employers’ broader strategy.
5. Developing an ownership mentality…
When employees understand the boundaries in which they can operate and maneuver, as well as where the company wants them to go, they will feel empowered with a freedom to decide and act, and most often make the right choices.
6. Improving performance through transparency…
By sharing ‘numbers’ with employees, a company can improve its performance. However, Rick points out, merely being open is seldom sufficient standing alone. A company also needs to be sure their employees are trained to understand financial statements and have sufficient insight into their own jobs to know how to favorably affect the numbers. But, Rick says, focus on additional metrics besides the merely the financial ones. This will allow employees to be better able to relate to the results and will feel more included in the process as a whole.
7. Increasing performance through employee engagement…
Employees who are engaged in their positions and understand the contributory role and value to their employer are inclined to put more effort into their job and have the desire – willingness to give more than is minimally required, hence a greater sense of personal committed and loyalty to the company.
8. Storytelling is important…
Storytelling, Rick believes, can be a powerful tool when a company wants to drive performance improvement. Leaders must be able use stories to motivate their employees to achieve more than they thought possible.
9. Communicating internally…
Internal communication is an important element of any change management process, i.e., creating a company culture and thus must be consistently engaged in the overall agenda. In other words, Rick notes, these five questions should be asked…
- have they heard the message?
- do they believe it?
- do they know what it means?
- have they interpreted it for themselves?
- have they internalized it?
10. Taking the time to celebrate
Remember, Rick says, the power of small win insofar as business improvement – change management are concerned once, of course, they have been reached. Taking the time to ‘celebrate’ is important, Rick adds, because it acknowledges employees hard work, boosts their morale, and helps sustain momentum, i.e., if you want something to grow, pour champagne on it!
Don’t take high performance culture for granted…
High-performance organizations do not take their culture for granted. They plan it, monitor it and manage it so that it remains aligned with they want to achieve.
All is for not, Rick appropriately claims, if company management teams do not align the core foundation – mission of their company with its culture, after all, culture eats strategy for breakfast!
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