Culture Matters

While once considered ‘soft stuff,’ organizational culture is now definitively recognized as not simply important, but foundational to everything that occurs within your organization. Your culture matters, from your ability to hire and retain quality personnel, to weathering industry and marketplaces changes, to your readiness in the face of succession opportunities, to facing shifts in the economy’s landscape.

Today we understand the direct linkages between organizational culture and:

  • Profitability
  • Sales growth
  • Market share expansion
  • Safety
  • Quality of services and products
  • Innovation
  • Employee engagement/retention
  • Customer satisfaction/retention 

The Confusion About Culture

The corporate world has spent trillions of dollars attempting to change over the last two decades. Training programs, consulting services, mergers and acquisitions, system upgrades, process improvements the list goes on. Customers as well as employees rate the effectiveness of these programs at 10-20%—and that might be optimistic. There are many reasons for such failure. Often, the desired outcome or result was not clearly defined up front, with an initiative applied to clearly match that result. Often a leader desires to see a broad range of performance improvements and applies the latest management fad, hoping somehow it’s the answer—alas, usually it’s not.

The business community is confused and understandably cynical about the whole topic of organizational culture because of:

  • Long-standing disagreement in the academic community over its definition and origin.
  • Fervent debates regarding how to measure it, develop it, and change it.
  • Confusion about its impact on business results.

So, do you think business culture doesn’t matter? Do you think it falls in the realm of “soft stuff” that the HR folks should handle? Perhaps you think it’s a passing fad, big in the 80’s and starting to show its trendy head again—and this too shall pass. Or maybe you are one of those who actually think culture matters, but figure you’ll focus on it when “things slow down around here.”

Well, think again. Business culture matters. It can’t be delegated to the HR department. It is not a passing fad—and, as a business leader, you really can’t afford to wait to deal with it. It might very well be the single most important thing a leader can focus on to create and support sustainable bottom-line results.