So little is understood about the mysteries of an organisation’s culture, is it any wonder that business today shakes it head and simply decides to dispute the existence of cultural issues. As strategists we have no choice but to acknowledge its existence because we see its effects each and every day.Understanding culture in your organisation, while onerous, is never the less, an essential ingredient to success and a failure to recognise or understand its ramifications is nothing short of dangerous.
Let’s take a hypothetical; Johnston Brown formed their business three years ago, they saw a need for something different in the market and they served up a slightly different service with a unique quality experience, it worked and they prospered. They made a decision right from the start to treat their personnel with care and offer ownership of the company by way of involvement and round table discussion. After three years they’d created a team that worked well and things were flying – at least on the outside it appeared that way.
Inside Johnston Brown it was a different story! Without any real idea of the culture they had created, the managers had employed people who were actually alien to the organisation’s personality – counter culture if you like. Soon things changed and the founders began to concede ground in thier efforts to appease the new personnel. The leaders wanted a benevolent culture, one that included employees. They were customer driven, because at Johnston Brown the consumer was king. The appeasement extended to concession, soon the strategies were being infiltrated by the employees and now the personnel were more and more influential. They began to drive the strategy and because they saw business in a totally different light, they slowly but surely began to dominate the culture. The Leadership was silently abidcating. The personnel felt it was important to put the company before the consumer and soon the culture was fighting the forces of absolute osmosis. Loyal customers didn’t recognise the way they were now being treated; they objected and voted with their feet – the business was in trouble.
Culture is a silent killer, it’s like blood pressure, until you measure it you never know its there. Stroke or heart attack are never far away and if your business suffers either you can be in deep manure.Johnston Brown didn’t know what hit them. They lost control because of their ignorance – ignorance of culture, ignorance of leadership. Leaders should understand their culture, its weaknesses and its power – they did not, and it could have cost them their business.
The lesson here is simple. First, anything that happens in your organisation will have its seeds in the culture. Second find out about your culture and make sure you understand it, if your confused talk to someone who understands the deeper essence of cultural matters. Third don’t assume every problem is a business problem – nine times out of ten the solution will be cultural. Finally, look around you and see what people are doing. Make sure your strategies are being fulfilled by your personnel. If they’re not you’re not in control and at that point you’ll know exactly who is ‘robbing the coach’