At the still point of destruction. At the center of the fury... There is a deeper wave than this that nothing can withstand.
The first two big projects for Creative Ventures in 2015 revolve around the idea of culture, of the shared values and beliefs that characterize the nature of an organization. These are challenging projects because they leave the realm of quantitative decision-making and tumble down the slippery slope of how people feel about their company and how their feelings impact their clients and--more importantly--their bottom line.
Why the focus on culture? In their book Corporate Culture and Performance, authors Kotter and Haskett report on a painstaking study they conducted in an effort to quantify the impact of culture. From Nissan to Hewlett Packard, to Xerox, to Southwest Airlines and over 200 other companies in 22 industries, the author’s research revealed that those companies with strong cultures, cultures that were critical parts of their decision-making process, outperformed their counterparts in every case. EVERY CASE! So there is good reason for a little cultural wellness check. Culture is an actual area of business impact.
Here is the interesting thing about cultures: they form either out of intent or organically. Simply by hanging around and doing business your organization will develop a culture. But the impactful cultures can trace their success to conscious intent.
Cultures find their foundation in a very traditional location, the vision, mission, and value statements of the company. These combined elements usually play one of two roles:
The “Unicorn,” in which they hang on a wall and kind of develop a mythical image, or…
The “Hammer,” in which they are a tool that is tapped regularly in almost every aspect of the company. They are USED.
In 1886 the pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson was founded. In 1943 founder Robert Wood Johnson crafted the Johnson and Johnson Credo, the company’s cultural statement. It clearly stated the priorities of how they viewed their responsibilities.
1. First, to doctors, nurses, mothers, and fathers who use our products.
2. Second, to our employees, the men and women who work for us.
3. Third, to our communities where they strive to be good citizens, and
4. finally, to the stockholders.
This culture was put to the “hammer test” on September 29, 1982, when the first death related to their Tylenol product was reported. Someone had laced their number one selling product with cyanide. Six other deaths followed in rapid succession. The Board held emergency meetings and tried to determine a response. By going to their Credo, by using their cultural foundation as a decision-making filter, J&J’s leadership moved rapidly. If, as their cultural values claimed, their primary responsibility was to the “doctors, nurses, mothers, and fathers who use their products,” then the answer was simple. By October 5th Johnson and Johnson had moved to pull every bottle of Tylenol from every shelf in America, even though the horrific product crime was only evident in the Chicago area. 31 million bottles at a loss of over $100 million. But their efforts didn’t stop there. Their R&D division invented tamper-proof bottles, the caplet, and multi-sealed bottles. Their culture was indeed utilized, and as a HAMMER!
Your corporate and organizational culture speaks loudly about you, so you might as well be intentional about it. Your vision, your aspirational drive, how you will strive towards your vision and your values, and the building blocks of your mission are all BIG players in the way you and your teammates behave. Together these form a framework of how your culture is used, how these ideas are applied, and what it means to the fabric of your company. Your cultural framework is your behavioral DNA.
Here are a few steps you can take to check in on your culture.
FRAMEWORK CHECK -When was the last time you reviewed your vision, mission and values? Are they active in your culture? Does anyone know what they are? In a recent project, I put three vision statements on the screen and asked which one was theirs. Less than 20% of the audience knew, and I’ll bet half of them were lucky guessers. How are your cultural foundation points shared with your teams? How are they presented to new employees? When are they brought into play when discussing key issues? Do you even have any of these foundation elements? Where did they come from? You don’t need a “we will be the best in the world” statement (kind of a lazy vision) but something that provides a greater direction, a future-based market position that can be a key driver in your strategic direction. You can have a cultural framework that differs from the foundation points of vision, mission, and values; however, it cannot be in conflict with them. For example, your cultural framework might be “We test our decision-making and our budget process against our mission statements.” That is the cultural use of one of your foundational elements.
TEST - Culture needs to be constantly tested against the behaviors of the organization. Have a meeting where these issues are discussed. Let teammates at all levels give their opinions. Discover how engaged they are in these ideas. Do they believe the company follows the path they have set? Are there ideas that could help mold your cultural framework? An enrolled workforce is the best tool in creating cultural impact. A non-shared culture is about as valuable as a pretzel in the desert. Testing should be a regular process of your cultural reality.
APPLICATION - Here is where the rubber of the unicorn and hammer concepts meet the road to provide traction or not. If you have built a significant commitment to culture and you have a framework, the proof of their impact is in their use. During one of our culture projects we helped the client create a three-part filter to be used as a decision-making process. Each part of the filter came from a simplified version of their vision, mission, and values (all of which were virtually unknown, having been left in their corporate dustbin of history). We then passed each strategic goal through their culture filter. If a goal made it through the three parts it was put in the “go” category; if not, it was saved for future consideration. Their filter process became part of their cultural framework. Take a look at your client experience as an impact point for your culture. Do your clients “experience” the benefits of your culture? Client experience is a great focal point for proof of application.
EVER-CHANGING MUSIC SCENE: StageIT is the new web-based platform that allows musicians to sell their live performances via webcam. Evan Lowenstein, who runs StageIt from his Hollywood loft, says this new music service allows musicians to give intimate performances and take fans backstage while at the same time making a little money. With the shift to the digital single song store, the market is morphing every day. From Jimmy Buffett to Jon Bon Jovi, from Bonnie Raitt to Bareilles, artists are taking advantage of this new service. If you’re looking for a new music experience, check it out at https://www.stageit.com/site/landing
SOUNDS OF SILENCE:In a modern world bombarded by noise, the idea of quiet is gaining attention. From noise-reduction headphones to non-connected resorts, the search for peace and quiet seems to be building economic momentum. Many hotels and resorts offer “digital detox” escapes, and business is booming. Restaurants are promoting the absence of noise in their dining rooms. The Beverly Hills Hotel is finishing a three-year restoration project with specific investments in noise reduction for each room (I’m in!). The idea of quiet as a selling point is now a business strategy. From this frequent traveler, THANKS!
A SNAPSHOT TO YOUR WALLET: The fourth-place horse of professional sports in the U.S. is hockey. Sorry, Slapshot fans, but it’s a numerical fact. The good news is, hockey is rockin’ it. Hockey’s Winter Classic (the big annual outdoor game) was down a little in viewing but still drew 77% more viewers than an average regular season game. The appeal of the NHL is at an all-time high. The 2011 TV package with NBC was worth $2 billion, and new digital strategies are driving younger fans to the game. NHL-branded accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have a combined 7.3 million fans! General viewership was up 12% in 2013. So, put on your team sweater (geez, it’s not a jersey) and let’s get cold!