Leading Ideas: Culture Drives Success

"I came to see in my time at IBM that 'culture' isn't just one aspect of the game - it is the game." — Lou Gerstner (1942- ) Former IBM CEO, credited with its turnaround

Last week, a colleague was venting some frustrations about a project at her company. She'd been working on a culture change initiative for 6 months and didn't feel like she was getting much traction. When I asked her how much input she'd been getting from the executive team, she said very little. Then she started to defend them by saying they were too busy - until she caught herself. "I guess that's the problem," she smiled. "The executives being 'too busy' to focus on people issues is how we ended up in this situation in the first place." - Bingo.

Something to consider:

Culture is your organization's DNA - the blueprint for everything you do. To be better at innovating - your culture must expect and foster innovation. To improve customer satisfaction - your culture must expect and foster great service. Great leaders realize this. They know that "culture" isn't a single item on a task list. And it can't be delegated to a committee. It's all encompassing. It's the real work - and legacy - of leaders.

Something to try:

Consider the team/group/organization you're leading
1. Look at your vision/mission statement and jot down the behaviors that everyone supposedly follows.
2. On a second list jot down the behaviors that everyone actually follows.
3. Pick the one discrepancy that annoys you the most.
4. Make it a top priority to change it.
5. Have a conversation with colleagues on why each of you think the discrepancy exists.
6. Agree on some structures to put in place to ensure that change happens (communication, processes, rewards etc).

Question: How do you foster a culture of success at your organization?

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  • mohamed

    i work on a project about how you chang the culture to make a sucssful hotel can any one help me with that

  • obinna

    Although change is an active, dynamic, energizing part of life, It comes as no surprise that it is quite difficult to enact. The territory of habit and custom lead people within and without organizations to atrophy, to succumb to the ease of "this is how we do things around here!" Needless to say, a company, for instance, that seeks change will find difficulty enacting change unless it starts with 'change agents': these are the key figures lurking throughout an organization who hold sway (read: respect and influence) on the hearts and minds of the people inside and organization. If they cannot co-operate with a change in culture, there is doubt of success. This seems to be a situation where top management should be put in a room and told to draw an elephant on transparencies: each 'change agent' should be given a part of an elephant to draw; they should also consult with each other while drawing. When the outcome is projected on an overhead, it will reveal "how things get done around here".

  • It's an Agency Thing

    Culture has, for far too long, been more about morale building and less (or not) about acknowledging and appealing to the street life of an organization. You don’t create a culture, you appeal to the one that already exists. When the culture is about business, and the people who fit the business, way more people show up to the party. Developing an unforgettable culture requires the design of an unforgettable experience inviting insiders to find their fervor.

    We spend countless hours interviewing and hiring for the right fit – determining what feeds people. Then, once they arrive, we forgot to set a plate for them. Or, we forget to ask them if they enjoy what we’re serving. Senior leaders have to be totally turned on and tuned in to defining and developing a culture that recognizes employees as the walking, talking, techni-color brand billboard because the only thing that matters is how the rest of the world encounters your brand every single time it comes in contact with your associates. Period.

    It’s An Agency Thing

  • Mary Schmidt

    And, how many times have we all seen it? Companies think "culture" is one of the huggy-wuggy things those HR types keep pushing when, "hey, we've got a business to run here!" Companies have cultures...intentional or unintentional...good or toxic. It's our choice, as leaders, managers, and employees. And, if the people aren't happy, the customers won't be.

  • Omara

    Yes, it's time to give to companies' culture the relevance they really have and make business more consistent, everybody would be much happier inside and outside the organization.
    This can be also aplicable to the companies' policies regarding employees' customs. Yesterday night I went out with a friend who works in the headoffices of the most reputed airlines in the country. I am used to see the flight attendants of this company impecably dressed, but there was my friend, who came directly from work, dressing like going for a pic-nic. She commented to me that everybody wears the style they want at work and one can dress up as much or less as they feel like...(!)

  • Asad Ansari

    Not just culture change but any change should be organic; hence should start at the roots(executives levels) resulting in all-natural heuristic change.

  • Hassan

    Every thing in my company or your, is simply conssist of hard-were and soft-were , the physical things are the easiest because every one can sea and evaluate but the culture(the softwere side) very difficult to built a system to control and change the culture off the people
    to get the fruit(vision/mission)HAPPY AND SAFE PEOPLE

  • Larry Crews

    Mohamed, are you currently working in this space?  Do you have any white-papers? Website?