An executive recently asked me if we had a methodology for injecting a culture into his company. It was a disturbing mix of entrenched employees, thick-walled silos, and declining sales. I was struck by his use of the word injecting, as if an ailing corporate culture could be revived with a simple transfusion.
The hardest task a manager faces is changing an embedded culture. A corporation develops internal beliefs and behaviors that determine how management and employees interact and how they handle those on the ‘outside’.
Harvard Business School Professor James Heskett researched 200 companies, and in his book Corporate Culture and Performance found that there is a direct relationship between a vibrant, fluid culture and strong financial results. Conversely, those corporate cultures that are entrenched and resist change suffer a weak bottom-line and high staff turnover.
Changing a corporate culture has become the major preoccupation for companies today. But rather than understanding the underlying principles of effective management, and positively transforming the work environment for executives and employees, they talk of injecting a fresh culture into their organization with a shopping list of ‘happiness-inducing’ programs.
The result is a grab bag of ‘team-building’ activities like Karaoke contests at lunch break with the managers as contestants and employees as the judges. Or a piece of gymnastic equipment installed in front of the accounting department so employees have to vault over a horse to take an appointment. Or coffee-free Wednesdays that reward staff for curbing their caffeine addiction.
The effectiveness of these injections is short-lived, as they do not handle the fundamental reason why corporate cultures fall ill, which is the lack of a dynamic VISION that joins management and employees in the active pursuit of commonly held goals.
Corporations exist to produce. To produce, they need to understand what is their true purpose for being. Knowing who they are, and what they offer is embodied in company’s VISION. Making that Vision known to all executives and employees enables everyone to focus on what needs to be done to contribute to the whole. Meaningful production is the basis of employee morale, and high morale is the foundation of a strong corporate culture.
In our work with companies, we call this Management by Vision.
There is nothing wrong with injecting fun into organizations as a welcome relief from the pressured day-to-day of business. But there is no injecting a dynamic corporate culture. It’s the natural product of a purposeful, fully integrated business that values an individual’s worth and enables them to be their best.