“Is Your Roof Leaking?” – The Right Time to Look at Culture

by Mona Mitchell
President and CEO

The Heart of the Matter

Here’s the conundrum. When it’s raining, you can’t fix the roof.  When it’s not raining, the roof isn’t leaking and there’s no immediate need to fix it.  In either case, the roof doesn’t get fixed.  It will inevitably leak at the next rainfall. This is the wisdom of Mark Morgan, co-author of ‘Executing Your Strategy’. We couldn’t agree more.

Translating this old-world story to modern-day organizational life looks like this. Businesses get so busy doing they have no time to work on corporate culture. Or, results are so good there’s no apparent need to address culture-based barriers to performance.

The issue with these false conclusions, of course, is that the hole in the roof  (akin to the absence of a high-performance accountability culture) lies as a latent problem.  Once crisis hits anew – and it will – trying to accomplish repair at that instant is like trying to fix an in-flight kite during a storm.

The Business Case

In the most challenging times, a strong culture can mitigate the morale-lowering effects of cost-cutting and efficiency drives.  In fact, 66% of respondents to a 2010 Randstad survey indicated that trust-building efforts (evidenced within solid cultures) is “extremely important” to long-term success.  In effect, attempts to nurture employees’ engagement and happiness go far toward counter-acting the negative impacts of layoffs, reduced benefits and wages, along with other slumps.

In their 2011 book, Optimizing Talent, Dr. Linda Sharkey and Dr. Paul Eccher present research findings that  indicate a ‘supportive culture’ is highly correlated with business success and can result in a 10% improvement on business results. Supportive culture ranked #1, even above engaged leadership and strategic alignment as a driver of results.

So, Should You Care?

Since there never seems to be a perfect time or ideal set of circumstances to engage in cultural transformation, why not start NOW, before the storm, to formulate and execute actions to improve your organization’s state of affairs. Although it seems like a daunting task to wrap your arms around culture and measure it, let alone change it, it can be done!

The best place to start is with some honest reflection:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, to what extent does your organization place “culture” on a level playing field opposite “strategy”?
  2. What do you think is the CEO’s – plus executive team’s – obligation to acknowledge the critical nature of culture?
  3. If culture is acknowledged as a factor in business success, is it thought of as something that can be thoughtfully impacted or just something that “is”?
  4. On your balanced scorecard, do you place people’s “health” equal to profit, operational excellence or other “hard” measures?  (This is where the rubber meets the road.)
  5. Are your corporate values actually ‘lived’ in the organization or do the culture and incentives encourage behaviours not aligned with your stated values?

If you and your team area already ‘culture converts’ then congratulations!

If your answers paint a less-than-ideal picture, you’re not alone. Culture is tough to isolate and measure. Building the business case for transformation can be challenging. The great thing is that culture seems to be getting more press lately which means there is more research to help. Since culture is our passion, we’re thrilled to see more attention being drawn to the cause.

To learn more about why we at ACHIEVEBLUE™ think a healthy organizational culture is such a critical factor in the success and profitability of any organization, check out “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”.

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