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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why Culture is the Key to your Organizations Success

Stemming the Tide of Diminishing Influence

In the early years of an organization, the personality of the founder(s) directly shapes the culture. But as the company continues to grow, reaching critical mass, the influence of the founders diminishes sharply. In its place, the culture tends to be shaped by a default set of factors – primarily the individual personalities of the various people groups that arise. Instead of a unified culture, organizations tend to develop pocketed “sub-cultures” that are often dis-united or even in conflict with each other.

A strong, unified corporate culture is a sight to behold. But it doesn’t happen spontaneously. It is the result of methodical, strategic intentions and careful, disciplined execution.

Discretionary effort - the power of culture

Discussions of culture can seem soft and irrelevant. But culture is the key to “discretionary effort” – perhaps the most valuable commodity an organization can cultivate. Discretionary effort is the highest form of engagement. It’s one thing for an employee to meet minimum requirements. But top-performing companies are characterized by people who give discretionary effort.

And culture is always the reason for this level of engagement. Here’s why.

People buy into ideas, but they sell out to cultures. For better or for worse, no other aspect of an organization matches the gravitational power of its culture. Mission and values are at best convincing. Vision and purpose are at best compelling. But culture alone has the potential to be captivating.

People are designed to be resilient - not resistant 

Cultures influence us more than our beliefs, our parents, our role models, and our own intentions. Mechanically, the function of a culture is holistic, touching us intellectually, emotionally, and experientially, all at the same time. Against such an orchestrated front, none of our individual faculties is designed to resist. By nature, people are designed to be resilient - not resistant - adapting to their surroundings.
By nature, people are impressionable, not impregnable.By nature, people are interdependent, not independent.By nature, people yearn for suitable cultures to which to prescribe all their being.By design, people need cultures.

Cultures, even bad ones, inherently possess the environmental characteristics in which people are designed to thrive.

Cultural Engineers

A strong culture is not just your personality and vibe. It's a set of characteristics that are:
  • Deliberate
  • Distinct (different from the rest of the world and from other companies)
  • Objectified - like a republic... You can point to the constitution... It's a reference point, not a subjective opinion or someones personality.

It's defined by:
  • A common language
  • Rituals or practices
  • A “constitution” (or master plan)

With the help of our "cultural engineers", we at NovoLogic help companies draft a master plan for shaping their chain-wide culture as well as the communication strategies, tactical plans and social technologies, required to accomplish it.

Blendcasting - the art of culture building

With a holistic culture plan in place - a practice we call Blendcasting - the impact of events like seasonal conferences will begin to extend far beyond the normal spike of engagement that traditionally occurs around these events themselves. With the entire arsenal of culture-building elements in place, the corporate essence will permeate all aspects of the organizational experience - creating year-round engagement for franchisees, corporate staff, and store-level employees.

Do you feel your culture is diminishing? are sub-cultures developing within your organization? Is it time for you to start thinking about developing a culture plan?


Scott Mabry said...

Love these points on culture. I believe culture is a game changer and has far more influence than any set of words we hang on the wall or put into our PowerPoint slides. Not sure I am comfortable with the idea of "engineering" culture as I tend to think of it as an organize process that is cultivated. Culture is messy and doesn't necessary emerge in the way we intended but it can certainly be strongly influenced by the ideas you discuss in your post. Mostly this is just my preference for the language that appeals to my view of culture and community. The key for me in this discussion is the idea of being intentional about the culture you want to create and taking steps to make it happen.

Burke Allen said...

Thanks Scott ! Would love to hear suggestions for alternative language for cultural engineering. that language is a result of the techie and engineer side of myself.

I can certainly identify with how this language may not come across well to some groups.

You are absolutely right in that culture is messy and if not consistently influenced the mess will become to big to clean up !