Avoiding culture by committee

One of the biggest mistakes I often see companies make as they try to define the culture they want to create is the tendency to have too much collaboration. Why do I call that a mistake? Let’s take a closer look. At its most basic level, too much collaboration can paralyze a group and make it difficult to accomplish anything. “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” as they say. A group can spend so much time trying to satisfy everyone that the final product can get diluted beyond recognition. While all of this is true, there’s a far more important …

Defining your culture with clarity

If you’ve read any of my previous writing about creating and driving culture intentionally, you know that I place a strong emphasis on the importance of defining behaviors, much more so than values. Behaviors are clear and specific, and so they’re easier to explain, teach, guide, and give feedback on. In this blog, I’ll provide some tips on writing good behaviors (we call them Fundamentals™). Titles and descriptions Each Fundamental™ should have a title and a brief description that explains the expected behavior a little more fully. Examples of titles might be “Honor commitments” or “Be a fanatic about response …

Should your culture change?

Here’s a question I often hear when I speak to CEOs about defining the culture they want to create: “Is it better to figure it all out and introduce it to our staff as a completed document, or is it better to introduce what we can think of now and then let it evolve over time?” I’ll use this blog to share my perspective on this question. When I ask this question to an audience of CEOs, the vast majority will tell me they think it should change over time. Here are some of the reasons they typically give: Times …

Inspiring the millennial generation

There’s been a lot written lately, and for good reason, about the impact of a new generation of employees and how their entry into the workforce is beginning to reshape how we think about the employer-employee relationship as well as our relationship to work itself. In this blog, I’ll explore how this impacts our culture, and specifically a mistake I see many companies make in their attempt to respond to this shift. For many older workers, employment was seen primarily as a means to support the family. They expected to work hard, to be loyal to their employers, and they …

Culture doesn’t have to be complicated

When people first get exposed to our approach to creating and driving culture intentionally, they’re often struck by how simple it is. “It just makes sense,” they frequently say, as if that should be a surprise. And yet, when things are simple, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking there must be something missing because it isn’t overly complex. I recently came across this blog post, written by Bruce Terkel, and I thought it was really insightful. In it, Terkel points out that when things are simple, they help us to see issues more clearly because we don’t get …

Sustaining your culture for years, not months.

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to stick with our plans, even with the best of intentions? Ever roll out an important initiative in your organization, determined to make it last, only to have it fall by the wayside, as you got busy on something else or distracted by a new problem or opportunity? Well join the club. It happens to nearly all of us and in nearly all organizations.   And the cost of these lapses is not just in the failed initiative. In fact, it’s bigger than that. When we repeatedly fail to sustain our efforts, we teach our …

Where do cultures come from?

Here’s a simple, but interesting observation: Every company has a distinct culture. In fact, every group of people that comes together regularly has a culture. This is as true for your company as it is for a group of golfing buddies or a Girl Scout troop or an athletic team. There’s an unwritten set of rules about how the group works – what topics are off limits, what it’s OK to joke about, how things get done, etc. It’s simply not possible for there not to be a culture. Strong personalities dictate But did you ever stop to wonder where …

The competitive edge in a commoditized world

Have you noticed that it’s harder than it’s ever been to truly differentiate yourself? That whatever you claim it is that makes you so different, your competitors also say the same thing about themselves? That to your prospects, as well as your current customers, you often look pretty much like everyone else? Yeah, we notice that too. And when customers can’t figure out what makes anyone different, they buy strictly on price, and none of us want to be in that kind of market! So how is that some companies manage to stand out year after year in industries that …

Can you measure culture?

I’m sometimes asked by CEOs, “How can we measure the effect of our work on our culture?” Well, the short answer is that you can’t, but the longer answer is that there are definitely things we can measure, and should be measuring, that are important leading indicators of success. Let me explain further.  You can’t isolate the variables The reason I say that you can’t directly measure the impact of your work on culture is that you just can’t isolate the variables. If your sales or profits increased by 18% last year, was that due to the work you did …