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“Talent is the multiplier. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield.”
- Marcus Buckingham, author and business consultant
Every once in awhile you have a moment where you worry you may have lost the plot.
Company Culture is the beliefs and behaviours that impact everything from interpersonal relationships to partnerships to marketing to customer service. It is a set of tenets that dictate every aspect of an organization’s operations, and should act as a beacon attracting talent who intrinsically share the same values.
When Patty McCord served as the Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, she built a corporate culture with no limits on vacation, a five-word expense policy and a belief that employees should be treated as adults.
"Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
The phrase was attributed to Peter Drucker in 2006 by Mark Fields, who later became chief executive of motor giant Ford, and 11 years on it is gaining new currency as part of the movement for purpose-led business.
For all the benefits of jet travel and Skype, trust and tribalism are still powerful forces of human nature which create in-groups and out-groups in no time. It happens with multiple offices, departments, teams inside larger teams etc...
And this is one of the hardest things to contend with as your company scales is the development of in-groups and out-groups. You will find it a true labor of love to find the right mixture of federal vs. state culture. Scale itself becomes a problem.
A wise man once told me: watch intently what people negotiate for, for it reveals more about their intentions than their words do. Someone I know calls it the “start-up hiring intelligence test”: you make two offers, $Y cash and X stock options, or 0.8$Y and 2X stock options. If they take the first offer, you pull it.
As companies grow, they often become highly centralized and inflexible. Symptoms include:
At Netflix "We avoid this by being highly aligned and loosely coupled. We spend lots of time debating strategy together, and then trust each other to execute on tactics without prior approvals. Often, two groups working on the same goals won’t know of, or have approval over, their peer activities. If, later, the activities don’t seem right, we have a candid discussion. We may find that the strategy was too vague or the tactics were not aligned with the agreed strategy. And we discuss generally how we can do better in the future."
1.Artifacts: Artifacts are things you can see, touch, smell. Ping pong tables, happy hours, and free lunches. It’s also the office layout, the logo rebranding you just did, and your company holiday party. This is typically what we think of when it comes to company culture.
2. Espoused values and beliefs: These are the things you think you believe and say you believe. It’s the mission statement you wrote together as a company, the code of conduct that’s in your employee handbook, or the six core company values your CEO talks about during your all-staff meeting.
3. Basic underlying assumptions:The final, core layer of culture. Basic underlying assumptions are the things you actually believe. Basic underlying assumption steer our decision-making. Our basic underlying assumptions are the foundation of culture. If we can influence our basic underlying assumptions, we can influence culture.
Is it happening through formal channels, like meetings that are always set in advance, and to which everyone comes well-prepared? Or do individuals more often communicate spontaneously with little or no documentation?
In more-hierarchical environments, you might have to “pre-clear” any communications upward in the hierarchy with your boss. In less hierarchical organizations, people may be encouraged to email senior leaders to chat with them.
Does the company have a bias for action or a bias for analysis and consensus.
Some companies approach work as being largely the product of individuals, while in others it is the product of a collaborative orientation. If an organization is very individualistic in its approach, it will generally support a “hero mentality” that recognizes the ambitious individual.
Group-focused organizations provide more of a safety net in that risks and rewards are shared, but it may be harder to stand out as an individual and differentiate yourself.
Most places are resistant to outsiders bent on change. But the challenge for any incoming leader is to determine what you can challenge in the culture, and when you should do so.
Pacing and buy-in are also critical factors. You need to ask: Can I be a highly assertive, fast-paced champion of change, or do I need to invest in engagement, dialogue, and consensus building first? You need to figure it out by watching reactions to the initial recommendations you make.
Culture and leadership closely, we see that they are two sides of the same coin; neither can really be understood by itself. Cultural norms define how a given nation or organizations will define leadership—who will get promoted, who will get the attention of followers.Tt can be argued that the only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture; that the unique talent of leaders is their ability to understand and work with culture; and that it is an ultimate act of leadership to destroy culture when it is viewed as dysfunctional.
Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast". It implies culture being more important than strategy. But culture isn’t more important than strategy, it is strategy.
Your strategy is not what you’re trying to do (those are your goals), but rather how you plan to do it, and your culture determines how you work. Without culture a strategy is just a bunch of words.