As regular readers of this blog know, we advocate defining your culture in terms of the specific behaviors (we call them Fundamentals) that drive success, rather than the broader, often more nebulous, “core values.” When writing Fundamentals for clients, we’ll sometimes have a client say, “We love these, and they’re definitely what’s important to us. But they don’t seem very unique. Shouldn’t these help define what makes us different?”
It’s a great question, and the answer may at first surprise you. But the more you think about it, the more I think it’ll make sense to you.
More similar than different
Having written Fundamentals for more than 200 different companies in a wide variety of industries, I’ve found that companies are a lot more similar than they are different. While there may be some required behaviors that are unique to a particular industry or leader, what it takes for a group of people to come together and perform in extraordinary ways really doesn’t vary that much from group to group. Fundamentals like “Honor commitments, Practice blameless problem solving, Get clear on expectations, or Make quality personal” are as powerful for a manufacturing company as they are for a distribution company or a doctor’s office or an IT provider.
What makes one company and its culture so much better than another isn’t the behaviors themselves; rather it’s the consistent practice of them. There’s nothing so unique about honoring commitments, but in most organizations lots of commitments are made and only sporadically honored. Most organizations suffer from countless examples of misunderstandings rooted in the lack of clarity of expectations, internally and externally. And the same could be said of most Fundamentals. If we could only be 20 or 30 or 40% more consistent in practicing these most basic and foundational behaviors, our organizations would be transformed. In fact, I often say that the best organizations don’t do anything so magically different. Instead, they do pretty ordinary things with extraordinary consistency. And that’s the magic of the Fundamentals System.
Creating the structure for consistent practice
At its core, the Fundamentals System™ creates the framework and the structure for articulating the behaviors that most drive success, and then practicing them with enough consistency that they become ingrained.
My experience is that most people really do want to do great work and achieve at the highest levels. It’s why we’re naturally drawn to movies and books about heroic characters who do amazing things. Most of us want to be great. But without an appropriate structure in place, most won’t have the motivation and/or discipline to do what’s necessary on a consistent enough basis. We start off with lots of determination, but eventually we sink back to doing what we always do. The weekly rituals, however, make the practice of the Fundamentals become almost second nature. They no longer require extraordinary discipline because the ritual helps to create a habit around practicing the Fundamental, and the habitual repetition is what makes it become ingrained.
The NY Times best-seller, The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, suggests the same observation. The key to making lasting change isn’t more discipline. It’s creating habits. The Fundamentals System provides the methodology to leverage this simple recognition, and then to use it to drive consistent high performance.
If you’d like to learn more, just give us a call, shoot us an email, or pick up a copy of my latest book, Culture by Design.