Company Culture: For Those About To Rock

Most companies ignore organizational culture. It’s not important to them. Business leaders have been conditioned to focus exclusively on strategy and operations, all the while hoping that a strong culture will eventually be developed once they attain success. This mindset it totally understandable… and completely wrong!

Focusing exclusively on tactical nuts and bolts will keep the company from ever achieving cultural nirvana – and companies that succumb to this small-time thinking will continue to wallow around in a malaise, constantly pushing the program or strategy-of-the-day to attain any financial success.

Rock star brands understand the difference between these two approaches and seek a higher purpose. They constantly opt for long-term sustainability of culture versus the limited focus of an annual strategy. As iconic management consultant and writer Peter Drucker once famously put it:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Drucker was so right. Unlike processes, tools, products and strategies, all of which can be easily copied, company culture is unique. So unique, in some cases, that replicating it proves to be too hard for a competitor to even attempt. That’s the advantage. A great organizational culture provides differentiation for consumers and employees alike. And it should be hard to copy.

But company culture should not be hard to understand.

Therein lies the reason so many businesses ignore culture – they don’t understand it, so that’s where we need to start.

I define an organization’s culture as simply “a collection of individual behaviors.” That’s the purest and easiest definition I can think of to really communicate how a brand’s culture can be affected. All roads lead back to human behavior.

Essentially, culture is inherent in the behaviors of a company’s employees. Some would like to believe that the culture is defined by a set of behaviors that remain unchanged over time, but that’s simply not true. Behaviors change because people change – they come and go in a brand all the time. Culture change is inevitable. What we want is the right culture change.

Surround Yourself With The Right People And You’ll Have The Right Culture

All organizational practices – positive and negative – only exist because individuals make them happen. Therefore, employee behavior will always be home base for us as we create, maintain, enhance or even revolutionize your company culture.

Remember: culture is only as strong or as weak as the employees that collectively make up the heart and soul of the organization.

Companies with strong and anchored cultures will grow and prosper while those with weak and frail cultures will wilt and eventually die. In 2008, when I started to put my thoughts into words for my book, Culture That Rocks, it seemed to me that in the global economic downturn, the focus of many companies (other than the obvious of staying in business) was on meeting three goals:

  • Differentiated Value Proposition
  • Unparalleled Customer Loyalty
  • Strong Employee Engagement

Today these goals are still the focus of most leaders. But to get there, in many cases, they’re going to have to change some things about the company. They are going to have to make a commitment to enhancing their company’s culture. This might mean subtle changes for some organizations while others may require a drastic overhaul. Why invest in these changes? Because at the end of the day, a company’s culture contributes an enormous amount to its success.