Culture – policed or created?

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Today I read an article that called HR the department responsible “for policing personnel actions and culture.” That struck me as odd.

Culture shouldn’t be policed. Leaders model and nurture it; employees create it.

Culture is the environment and personality of a company. It is the result of thousands of interactions a day between employees in every group at every level.

If the actual culture doesn’t match the stated company culture or values, there is a disconnect that causes confusion – or worse – mistrust.  It is fine to aspire to a desired culture as long as you realize 1) the difference, and 2) that you aren’t there yet.  Mismatch between the stated and actual culture fools no one.

If no one takes ownership for building and managing culture, culture still happens by default.

HR may do things to encourage culture, but a single department can’t force a culture.  HR’s roles are to advise the leadership on issues of culture and to ensure rules and laws relating to personnel are applied correctly.

Some may argue there isn’t much difference between policing and building a culture.  I believe there is huge gulf between the two in terms of approach and attitude.  Do you want to work for a company where culture is policed or one where culture is intentionally created?

Growth: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

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It’s a safe bet that if you do a quick internet search on business priorities that increasing topline revenue, improving sales performance, and increasing company value will show up in the top results.  Growth matters.

To misquote Gordon Gekko:  growth is good.

Growth tells us you are meeting a need in the market and customers see value in what you do. Growth gives your team more opportunities and expands your horizons. Investors are happy. If you ever watch ABC’s Shark Tank, you know that history and forecasts of growth are major areas of concern.

But it’s not all rosy. You must be prepared for growth and have realistic expectations.

Growing your company may require capital or decreased profitability while you invest in the future.

Your team may need to find newer, better ways to accomplish their tasks to be more efficient and maintain profitability. What got you here may not support you at the next level.

The company may outgrow the capacity and capabilities of its employees. This is especially true of leaders as the company moves from an idea to a company to a professionally-managed firm.

Strong leaders can navigate these obstacles by taking a long-term approach and making tough decisions at the right time.  You must be prepared to protect the business.

However, there are two challenges of growth that can be devastating if you aren’t intentional about protecting them:  maintaining culture and customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is obvious. You won’t stay in business if your level of service drops. Customers have other choices.  Can you maintain your current level of satisfaction while adding more customers?

Culture, however, is easy to ignore if you aren’t intentional. Rapid growth may mean rapid expansion of your team. Hiring strategies must include finding new team members who embrace your values.  Leaders must work harder to model, foster, and communicate values as the team gets larger.  “Culture eats strategy.”

Growth is vital, but exceeding your ability to absorb growth is dangerous.

Your business strategy is incomplete. Or just wrong.

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Let me clarify — wrong for YOUR business.

Your strategy should be as unique as you are.  If you can delete just a few key words and your plan is unidentifiable as yours, it may not be the strategy you need.

Strategy doesn’t begin with deciding what steps you will take to meet your goals.  It starts well before that.  It begins with your company DNA and an understanding of why your customers do business with you.  Without those foundational elements, your strategy misses the mark.

Company DNA

The company DNA is the combination of the core purpose or passion – the reason your business exists – and the values inherent in the organization. DNA drive everything in your company and it sets you apart from your competition.

Your position in the marketplace

Your customers choose to do business with you.  What is it that compels them to select you over others in a crowded market?  If you don’t know, there is one sure way to find out – ask them!

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities and threats you face help round out your market niche and how you can leverage your unique position.

Armed with the info above, you can better define the products and services you provide with clarity which allows you to sharpen your brand and target your audience.

Now plan your strategy

Your strategy will set the goals you are trying to attain along with the steps you will take to achieve them.  They should leverage your unique purpose, values, and niche.  Every goal and action must be specific nad have owners responsible for driving them.

If your strategy isn’t more than a list of goals, doesn’t capitalize on the elements that make you unique, and and doesn’t leverage your strengths, it isn’t the right strategy for you.

Is your company healthy?

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Employees long to be part of a healthy organization.  Business owners and executives reduce wasted effort and lost time by creating environments where their employees can perform their best.

There are two aspects to a healthy business:  organizational health and operational health.

Organizational health deals with the environment of the company.  Hallmarks of an organizationally healthy organization include:

  • The company values are known and exhibited by employees at all levels of the organization.
  • People are hired, fired, and rewarded based on the company values.
  • There is open communication in the business – between different departments, teams, and levels.
  • Challenges are discussed with transparency and are solved, not allowing them to fester and get worse.
  • Employees believe in the company and its mission and values to such an extent that they hold themselves and others accountable.

Operational health focuses on how the company performs the tasks to deliver its products and services.  An operationally healthy organization can make statements like:

  • Our processes are documented and understood by everyone.
  • All team members know how their roles and the roles of others fit into the big picture.
  • Company and departmental goals are published, and everyone knows if they are being met.
  • Tasks – and even products and services – that don’t add value to the organization are eliminated.
  • The company’s structure supports timely, consistent, and informed decision making.
  • Waste and inefficiency is eliminated whenever possible.

For your business to thrive, it must be both organizationally and operationally healthy.  Only then can it effectively execute its strategy.