When’s the right time to work on your culture?

By Rob Wolff, Vice President

Like all of us at HPC, one of the hats I wear is that of a salesperson, and one of the most common responses any of us receive from CEOs and business owners is that “we really need to do this, but it’s just not the right time because _________.”  When I hear that phrase, I immediately think that if that’s the case, then working on your culture is the LAST thing you should put off!  After all – your culture is among the few things that touches and impacts literally everything that happens at your firm.

There are a handful of reasons we usually hear about why this isn’t the “right time” – allow me to break a few down for you:

I’m involved with so many things right now, and I just don’t have the time to give this the focus that it needs.

I understand this one – you’re busy.  Well, so is everyone else. Generally, if you’re leading a business and you’re not busy, you won’t have a business to lead much longer.  The CEOs who decide to partner with us to create definition and clarity surrounding their desired culture know that doing so will enable their teams to be more productive and efficient.

Having worked with consultants in my previous roles, I know that working with outside resources can sometimes take a lot of time and effort. I say sometimes, because we know that our clients are busy and have more priorities than they know what to do with. By drawing on our experience of working with hundreds of owners and CEOs, we handle the heavy lifting on our end, and can be ready to introduce a clearly defined, easily understood high performing culture to their employees with as little as an hour or two of advance work on their part. It’s not all that hard to find a few hours when you realize that moving from “good” to “great” is what you get in return.

I’m afraid that my staff won’t be able to devote enough quality time to such an important initiative.

In nearly every organization, team members are working hard to help achieve company or team goals and objectives. In high performing organizations, leadership has been very clear not only about what needs to be done, but also about the way that it should be done. Through defining their culture in terms of behaviors (“Fundamentals” in HPC-speak), so that team members can work together more effectively and cohesively, they create greater alignment and greater efficiency.  Rather than approach things in the random way in which different people think makes sense, we help create a common approach and understanding about how the team should work together (and with customers!)  For the same reason that successful businesses implement policies and procedures – to enable them to achieve consistently high-quality results at scale – we want to be clear about how our staff should work together with each other, with clients, and even with vendors and suppliers.

So, if there’s a lot going on right now, what could possibly make more sense than providing clear, easy to manage direction that will result in enhanced productivity, fewer errors, and a greater sense of engagement?

Financially, now just isn’t the right time.

First, you should be partnering with an organization that truly wants to help you get to a better state.  If they do, then there should be ways to manage the cost in a way that allows you to get the process started.  Once you create that high performing culture, then things should start to improve in the areas of efficiency, productivity, and overall effectiveness, thereby driving savings which will support the investment.  In practice, when we work with our clients, we don’t project or promise a specific ROI because we know it’s nearly impossible to separate the impact of working on your culture from the three new clients that you landed, the change in market dynamics, and/or the change in the tax law that’s impacting your cash flow.

However, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to recognize the positive effects on your business if your teams are working together more effectively, if their focus on customers improves, and/or if you’re better able to attract and retain top talent because of improvements in your culture.   There is literally no downside to improving your culture, whether you have a good one or a great one today.  There is also no part of your operation that won’t experience the effect of that improvement.

Every investment of time and/or capital needs to be justified and should undergo a thorough review to ensure that the benefit outweighs the cost. As David Friedman states in his book Culture By Design, “culture affects our ability to differentiate ourselves in a commoditized marketplace, it affects our ability to attract and retain talented workers, and it affects every aspect of the customer interaction.”  That’s an awful lot of benefit for what is typically a pretty reasonable investment.

If you’d like to learn more about how the Fundamentals System™ can help you to build a high-performing culture, click the button below.  Or join us at our annual Culture Summit in October.