There's more to culture than pithy management memos and value statements that are loosely referred to at the company picnic. Beyond guiding the moral compass of the company, a well developed culture can provide a strategic roadmap for high performance within the organization and add to its bottom line. That said, here are six tips to help you raise the bar and get more from your culture.
1. Craft a robust Declaration of Culture (DoC), and get it on paper.
The DoC is a project that goes beyond merely documenting the beliefs of your company. It is a living initiative designed to institutionalize the important insights, traditions, values and valued behaviors that you believe drive the success of your organization. This includes the irrational, fun elements that brings your tribe together, energizes and motivates for the marathons and sprints in the office.
2. Approach the design of your culture as you would the customer experience.
High performance culture needs to be seen, heard, known, and felt. It is experienced. And just like your brand and customer experience, it must be intentionally designed to drive the results that you want. It isn't just a luxury to add for posterity sake. It is about strategically developing the soft infrastructure of your company. Your beliefs and attitude affect your actions and results. Taking culture building seriously will enable you to raise the bar for the whole team, each and every day.
3. Identify the high performance markers for your team.
Spend some time observing all parts of the business and the team. Take snapshots and map out the behaviors you believe are driving success in each department. Document what's really working, what you want to encourage now and forever with every team member. Break things all the way down to specific sets of valued behaviors.
4. Values are like televisions, they look better in HD.
It's one thing to know your values. It's quite another to know how to apply them to specific tasks and processes to add quality and value to your work. These valued behaviors provide practical examples of your values in action. By making them known, you provide more context and clarity, making them more useful in the day to day. Taking time to define valued behaviors is far more powerful than the value statements alone.
5. For your culture to be effective, it needs to become real.
You've gathered all the right ingredients; all that hard work of observing, recording and identifying values and valued behaviors. Now, in order for your culture to be baked into your processes and activities, you need to bring these ingredients together and translate them into actionable requirements.
Pro tip #1: Frame your thinking in terms of creating experiential touchpoints versus branded artifacts, or physical things. Branding some swag and calling it culture doesn't move the needle that far. Instead, think like an experience designer or a parent on Christmas morning. The physical thing or gift you give, is only part of the joyful experience. It's how you give it. This includes the events leading up to the unveiling, the initial presentation, and the experience years later. Consider these ideas carefully as you craft your culture.
6. Find and designate your Chief Cultural Officer or Chief Experience Officer to lead the initiative.
Designing culture on paper isn't enough. You need to bring it to life. It needs to be embodied within important figures in the organization. It has become a professional responsibility. And that responsibility doesn't end where your building meets the sidewalk.
Culture is part of your brand, and is experienced by your customers and employees alike. In the normal course of business transactions, cultures are exchanged. Designing for only half of the equation, is a half-baked solution, and has been for years. Your champion must take ownership of the whole with the cultural lens, knowing that it impacts the customers as well as employees.
Pro tip #2: Consider the title Chief Experience Officer (CXO) over Chief Cultural Officer (CCO). CXO takes ownership of the whole pie, while CCO tends to take less responsibility for the overall impact on the bottom line. Culture building is an important job that exists to add value and performance to the company.
So, who will you designate to lead the charge? If you have too much on your plate to take it on yourself, choose a trusted, team member. Characteristics to look for in a candidate include:
- Strong company relationships
- broad and deep knowledge of the company and its history
- A high capacity for non-linear thinking
- A multidisciplinary skill-set
- Capacity to own this effort
In short, find your samurai and cultural zen master who has the bandwidth to take ownership of this initiative. Then set them loose to instill your top values and valued behaviors.
Taking a more disciplined and experiential approach to developing your company culture will pay significant dividends in the near and long term. Institutionalizing wisdom, values, and beliefs; bringing them to life with touchpoints, and choosing a champion to own the effort will increase your capacity to influence and drive high performance.