Company culture encompasses a set of unwritten rules about ‘how we do things around here’. It often resides in deeply seated beliefs and mindsets that drive behaviours and determine how people approach problems and take decisions.
Many successful CEOs, including Steve Balmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, Tony Hsieh, the Founder and the CEO of zappos.com, Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM and Dharmesh Shah, the co-founder of Hubspot have been known for making culture their priority and for attributing a lot of their success to being able to shape the right culture for their organisation.
According to Deloitte’s recent Global Human Capital Trends, “Culture has become one of the most important business topics of 2016”.
Researchers confirm that an effective culture offers strong competitive advantage and that it can directly and significantly impact company’s bottom line.
A large part of my work entails helping companies leverage their culture so that it supports their mission, vision, and strategic objectives.
So when I first saw the April issue of Harvard Business Review, with its cover boldly proclaiming in bright red print: “You Can’t Fix Culture”, I was intrigued…
CULTURE CHANGE – A RESULT OF STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES?
After interviewing four CEOs who successfully led major business transformations, the authors of ‘Culture is not the culprit’, Lorsch and McTague, started to suspect that trying to fix culture to improve the business might be the wrong place to start.
Their findings led them to the hypothesis that the best way to transform culture is to… stop focusing on culture so much – and to focus on the business instead. And particularly on strategy enabling processes and structures.
In other words, they suggest that culture changes as a result of the way business is done, not the other way round.
Remember that jolt of energy that flicks a switch in your whole body, akin to electricity, when you are driving without full attention and a child runs out into the street, and you can only hit the brakes if you find your presence? Or think of the energy you feel if you are followed by a stalker and you need presence to outwit them. Or the surge of energy when you catch a stranger’s eye and share a moment. Or the moment you understand an idea, the clouds part in the mind and light enters – you can only be enlightened when you are present.
– Patsy Rodenburg, “Presence”
I was recently at a cocktail party, where I found myself talking about presence to complete strangers. It all started with the dreaded question:
“So, what do you do for a living?”
Given how many times this has happened in the past, you’d think that I would have nailed the answer by now. But, no. Not me. Instead of saying something simple and powerful, I started meekly:
“Well, I’m an organisation development consultant…”.
One look at my interlocutor and I knew that I might as well have said: “I’m a Nanotechnological Bioinformatics System Integration Researcher” or “A Curator of Non-Marine Molluscs”.
While managerial coaching can potentially have an enormous impact on people’s performance and greatly contribute to a coaching culture, it is also very often the Achilles’ heel of many organisations.
Around 2007, Google launched Project Oxygen, a large-scale, multi-year research project, the aim of which was to identify what successful Google managers do. The data was quite revealing and led Google analytics team to identify eight key behaviours associated with being a good manager.