“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”
You have probably seen this opening quote before. Maybe so many times that it doesn’t even get your attention any more.
There is an advertisement built on this phenomenon that is all over television these days. There are several version but all carry the same message. One character in the scene asks the question, “Did you know you 15 minutes could save you 15% on car insurance?” A second character rolls their eyes and responds, “Everyone knows that!”, whereupon the first character counters with an obscure factoid in the form of a question in hopes of getting some recognition for their intelligence.
Like a lot of things in life, knowing something is really only as valuable as what you do with the information, like did you really save 15% on car insurance…or did you just know that you could?
Many mid-level managers relate to the culture of their businesses like this as well. Ask most any manager if they know that managing the culture of their business can pay big dividends and you often get the knee jerk response, “Everyone knows that.” In my experience, however, this response is usually quickly followed by ” But that is really out of my control!” Not that many managers operate from the knowledge that for most employees the culture of their company starts with their immediate manager.
I was reminded that it might be time to write again about the power of culture to make or break a business when today I saw that Booz&Co. issued a new report reinforcing “what everybody knows!” Here’s their overall conclusion…
In other words, to paraphrase the Booz findings, many companies’ senior management do not insist that their mid level managers act on what they know to be true, culture can make or break you business.
But you may be saying to yourself that as a mid-level manager reports like this have little to do with your daily issues. After all Booz is an international consulting company looking to sell its services to CEO’s. You have only a few employees , you may even know them all by name and you buy pizza for everyone frequently, maybe even a beer or two every now and then. That should do it, right? Besides, senior management makes changes without consulting you so you are just a pawn on the board anyway.
If you think that the occasional free pizza or even the Christmas department lunch makes up for close attention paid to the day-to-day culture of your group of reports you might find as the Booz survey respondents did, results like these if you survey your immediate reports…
- 60 percent said culture is more important than the company’s strategy or operating model.
- 96 percent said some form of culture change is needed within their organization.
- 51 percent believe their organization is in need of a major culture overhaul.
- 45 percent do not think their culture is being effectively managed.
- 48 percent do not think they have the capabilities required to deliver lasting change.
- At 57 percent, skepticism due to past failed efforts was the No. 1 reason for resistance to change.
Here’s what I think. As a mid-level manager you read columns like this one and say to yourself, “Yes everyone knows that culture is more important than just about any other single factor insofar as predicting business success but I am not a sociologist or psychologist and I cannot afford to hire Booz to come in and help me!” And with that you throw up your hands or shrug your shoulders as if to say, “Hey, what do you expect from me?” Really, you are satisfied with that? I don’t think so and I also think you are right about both not being able to afford to hire Booz or be a psychologist for your business. However, maybe this might be a place to start. Could you address the following…
- Make sure that bad behavior is visibly but respectfully confronted.
- Make sure that compensation, incentives and/or promotions are based on results AND behavior, not just results.
- Manage your emotions and do not give yourself permission to explode in public
- Have those pizza parties on a regular schedule and have them be about communication as well as camaraderie. This means you have to be there.
- Do not let employees use email as a cover your butt tactic, make sure it is a proactive tool.
- Have other managers clear about treating your reports respectfully and being rigorous about performance expectations. Just what is good enough?
- Be specific about values and behaviors and reinforce them publicly.
Taking action along these lines will not manage your culture entirely, yes there are factors beyond your control, but it will start to remove fear from the immediate environment and make culture management possible.