“Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball…” – Queen
Every single time it’s a big production, an inspiring or fun song and a dance number, all played out in an endless video loop in my head.
No, not a Broadway production per se, but a world of work real-time video where the camera moves fluidly through the semi-choreographed flash mobbed “office spaces” that make up my life here, there and everywhere; where everyone around me sings along and moves with the music unfettered as if no one were watching, except of course my camera eye.
For me, this is the very DNA of a company, the very genetic essence and cultural musicality that morphs for better worse (then back to better again we hope) and binds us together through that overplayed but still number one on the business charts hit called employee engagement – the 21st barometer of organizational health.
And when engagement is high, when companies actually do win over the hearts and minds of their workforce, and vice-versa, or most of them at least in the real world, when emotional connection is high among peers as well as leadership, then that’s when we’re “knee deep in the hoopla” (if you recognize the tune, hum along and dance a little 1980’s pop rock jig) with unprecedented discretionary effort and many other positive business outcomes.
Maybe I’m a daydreamer who likes to work through his life via words and music and who also grew up first-generation MTV – which I am and do and did – but the fact is the genetic and cultural musicality in every organization is key. Hopefully in key.
A strong and productive workplace culture is the foundation for organizational health, but there’s no one recipe on how to get there and keep it. That would be too easy and not the way the real world of work works at all.
Over the past decade, McKinsey has measured and tracked organizational health in hundreds of companies around the world. In fact, according to their research, they asked over 1.5 million employees to date about their perceptions of their organizations’ health and management practices. From that a single health score (or index) based on relative “greatness” in organizational health was established.
What they discovered were four combinations of practices, or “recipes,” that were associated with sustained success.
- The hallmark of the first, or leader-driven, recipe is the presence, at all of an organization’s levels, of talented, high-potential leaders who are set free to figure out how to deliver results and are held accountable for doing so.
- Organizations following the second, or market-focused, recipe tend to have a strong external orientation toward not only customers but also competitors, business partners, regulators, and the community.
- The third recipe, which we call execution edge, includes companies that stress continuous improvement on the front line, allowing them to raise quality and productivity constantly while eliminating waste and inefficiency.
- The fourth and final recipe, talent and knowledge core, is found frequently among successful professional-services firms, professional sports teams, and entertainment businesses. Such organizations emphasize building competitive advantage by assembling and managing a high-quality talent and knowledge base.
Whatever the combination, it’s clear that these are all cultural compositions that can produce hit after hit after hit.
So with all of this research in mind, what we really need is a little continuous (gimme a one and a two):
- Song. Everybody contributes to the cultural theme song, on key or not. This is why is so important to embrace the aspirational along with the business strategy and KPIs, to have engagement processes and technology systems in place where continuous knowledge sharing and impromptu collaborative a capella sessions are encouraged and even amplified, so as to inspire your peers, colleagues, new employees and old, as well as executive leadership to not just sing along, but to drive the orchestration, the soundtrack of success. If you’re singing in shower silos, no one’s going hum along.
- And Dance. We gotta move, people. Doesn’t matter whether you have two left feet or you can swing like Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe from So You Think You Can Dance. We gotta move and keeping moving; we’ve got to figure out how to dance with one another in order to launch new ideas and bring innovative products and services to market. That means the music never stops and neither do our legs and feet. And for those of you who flail while dancing, your arms, hands and head, too. The point is, the constant agility dance with one another is what will keep us and our teams competitive. And in shape.
“Oh, the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on and on…”
Again, this is our world of work DNA, the genetic essence and cultural musicality that keeps us emotionally committed to our work, to our peers and yes, even to the bottom line. It not only includes those on the inside, but those partners and customers on the outside are just as important to this melody. It’s what truly separates those who succeed aspirational and those who ban singing and dancing all together.
Tim Kuppler, a performance culture specialist and co-founder of The Culture Advantage and CultureUniversity.com states that “culture will be widely accepted as the ultimate differentiator in organizations within the next 20 years. The focus will over-shadow strategy, talent, technology, and all other areas.”
Right on. C’mon now, let’s dance!
“Now I gotta cut loose, footloose, kick off the Sunday shoes…”