A Reality Test for the Chairman: The Final Exam

not aligned

Culture is a metaphor, not a P&L line item, however it impacts every item on the P&L !

The Final Exam

Sit in a quiet place, turn off your phone, take out a pencil or pen and a clean sheet of paper.  You have as much time as you need!

Here’s the Situation:

All the vice-presidents hate the new CEO, as do most of the executives. He demands unthinkable hours, he’s verbally tough and abusive on his direct reports, and will not tolerate poor performance. He was once so unhappy with the response to a question about missed goals from a female VP that he cleared off her desk by picking it up and tipping it over. He is rude to subordinates, foul-mouthed in meetings and humiliates staff in public.

However, this particular bank had been a loser for several years prior to the new CEO coming on board. For the past six straight quarters since he arrived there have been record profits, record growth and record high share price. The Board and shareholders gave him a standing ovation at the last AGM after he presented the prior year results and projections for the upcoming year. Performance is up and the senior team and other executives are threatening to quit!

If culture is so important and impacts performance; if organizations are shadows of their leaders; if the way we treat each other trickles down to how we treat customers; and if a big part of culture is behavior, what would you do as the Chairman of the Board?

How would you respond if you were the Chairman of the Board?

PS: this is NOT at trick question!

Culture is like the water in a fish tank, let it get dirty or contaminated and everything inside suffers. And the smell is horrible!

LeverageThis is the final chapter in my new book – LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culturea book specially written to help the CEO understand what all the fuss it about culture and why culture matters to the bottom line.

The statement on cover of Leverage will give you an indication of how I approach this subject:

Few concepts in business contain so many powerful truths, and at the same time so much crap, as corporate culture.

 

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

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The New CEO’s Secret Weapon

If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside, the end is in sight.  -Jack Welch, former CEO, GE

One of the most difficult jobs in modern business is that of the incoming CEO.  As soon as the appointment is announced it seems that everyone desperately needs to talk to the new CEO, even before she officially starts.

Consultants want to pitch their capabilities, suppliers want an audience, disgruntled customers demand air time, and most of all the members of the senior team line up to extol the virtues of their departments and their importance to the success of the enterprise.  Employees seem to be way down the list but they want to talk to the new CEO as well about a host of issues that obviously the previous CEO ignored. And if that wasn’t enough, the Chairman of the Board, all the Non-Executive Directors and of course the analysts demand quality time with the new CEO.

The most interesting thing about the people wanting time from the new CEO is that they see their job as delivering an “accurate” picture of the state of affairs, yet in reality they only have a few pieces of information, a few pieces of the puzzle, not the whole picture.  And they come with an agenda, sometimes hidden, most often blatantly obvious.

And when all these pieces are laid out, they don’t seem to fit together to make a clear picture. Just like a bottom up budget there are more issues, agendas and ideas than the new CEO can effectively deal with at one time.  It is important for the new CEO has to make sense of this pile of information; some pieces are clearly important and some aren’t. No wonder many new CEOs fend off as many meetings as possible until they can get their feet on the ground and see for themselves what is going on.

Time is the Enemy of the New CEO

But as always, the critical element is time.  And of all people the new CEO does not have the luxury of time to dig in fully, explore all the loose ends, and most importantly, think!

There are various estimates by academics on just what the grace period is for a new CEO. Some say six months, some 100 days, some 3 months before the new CEO must produce a solid assessment and most importantly, a workable go-forward plan. But on one thing everyone agrees, in the past few years the “grace” period has gotten shorter and shorter.

The New CEO’s Secret Weapon

There is, however, a secret weapon in the arsenal of the new CEO if they seek it out.  That weapon is an understanding of the leadership culture of the organisation they inherit. The culture at the top, one of the most influential subcultures in the entire organization, has a great influence on all aspects of the business, from strategy execution to company pride and teamwork.

Organisations are shadows of their leaders.  That’s the good news and the bad news!

The problem with understanding the leadership culture is that it is mostly invisible, especially to insiders.

“We don’t know who first discovered water, but it certainly wasn’t fish. They are in it every day and can’t see it.”

The same is true for a long tenured senior executive team and the leadership subculture.

For the CEO to get a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the leadership subculture, I suggest a few key questions and a few key activities to spring open the padlock and reveal its contents.

Here are a few of our favourite non-obvious questions for a new CEO:

  1. Do you know the senior leadership subculture you are coming into?
  2. Will it support or hinder your vision and goals for the organisation?
  3. How well does the senior team work together?
  4. Are they focused on shared strategic objectives or just their own functional (silo) goals?
  5. Does this company have a best practice process for strategy delivery?
  6. Ia this a culture of personal accountability or a blame culture?

A CEO client once remarked:

There is no strategy without execution and there is no execution without leadership!

The Importance of a Senior Team Offsite In the First 90-Days

The quickest way to get a handle on the senior leadership subculture is to get the entire senior team together at a 3 or 4 day away meeting early on. (1-day is not enough time for executives to show their real character, 3-4 days is best)

If you use a robust process for strategic thinking and follow these few questions in sequence, you will quickly learn about the leadership culture.  Just watch how they behave, as individuals and as a group!

  • What is our strategic intent?
  • What are our shared objectives as a team?
  • What are the few breakthrough objectives we should be focusing on to grow this business, better service customers, and beat the competition?
  • What are the fewest metrics we need to run this business properly?
  • What projects/programs do we need to deliver on our strategic agenda?
  • What projects/programs are running that don’t fit this agenda?
  • Who is going to be accountable for what?

You will very quickly learn the type of leadership culture you have inherited.  And you will also quickly discover who’s on the bus and who isn’t. You will also learn a lot about the business from the people who “should” know the most.

During this meeting a great tool to guide the discussion is a customised Senior Leadership Subculture Assessment filled out by the senior team and then the next level of leadership.  If the questions are designed properly and customised for your business and industry, it will reveal a highly accurate snapshot of the leadership culture.

Here are a couple of examples:  This shows a top performing senior team:

Top

This shows a senior team facing a turnaround situation:

turnaround

During this senior team workshop the CEO will quickly begin to understand the individual personalities, their strengths, attitudes, level of teamwork, and fit with the new business requirements. And watching a team work together for 3-4 days is a great way to get the full measure of the leadership subculture.

And once you know the leadership culture you have, you can then plot a course to build the leadership culture you need!

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   
FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

 

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How I First Understood About Corporate Culture

Dilbert MBWA

In the executive suites today, the concept of corporate culture is the new black. It seems that everyone is talking about the importance of culture, the impact of culture, and of course, the need for culture change.

The recent seismic shift in the global economy, along with rapid technological, political, generational and regulatory changes are impacting every industry with wave after wave of disruption.  There is no let up, the changes just keep coming.  And one common response in the executive suite is: “We need a culture change.  We need a more _______(fill in the blank: agile, accountable, customer focused, innovative, etc.) culture to survive and thrive.”

The problem is, very few executives, not to mention culture consultants and academics for that matter, really understand what corporate culture is and even fewer understand the real levers for reshaping or changing culture. As a result, attempts are made at culture change using the hierarchical approach of top-down communications, cascading “culture workshops” and publishing new “Values Statements”. Lots of activity, some interesting Powerpoint slides, but very little change.

On the cover of my recent book, Leverage: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture, is my favourite statement about corporate culture:

Few concepts in business contain so many powerful truths, and at the same time so much crap as corporate culture.

subculturesCorporate culture is anything but HR fluff or academic theory. It’s a business issue as real and meaningful as product quality or cash flow. Corporate culture can be a significant business risk, or a valuable asset. And there is no single culture but in fact nearly every company is a collection of strong subcultures, sometimes aligned with the overall business strategy, mostly looking out for themselves.

 

How I first experienced and understood what really drives culture:

Early in my career, back in the late 1970’s in fact, I was a young consultant working on improving customer service for a large regional department store retailer. The company was losing market share to other retailers and the overwhelming cause seemed to be poor customer service. After all, they had the same merchandise, similar pricing, similar large mall locations, similar store lay-outs, similar sales staff and were a well-known regional brand. But customers weren’t buying and focus groups unearthed the fact that customers didn’t feel anyone was there to serve them and it was hard to interact with floor staff.

So, a decree came from the top: Improve customer service.  And the HR department got the job.  New training in customer service was designed and made mandatory. Hiring profiles were changed to recruit and hire “more extroverted, people-friendly” floor staff. Managers were measured and bonuses given on customer service scores. The President made a video talking about the importance of customer service. Customer Service became the number one corporate value and featured on plaques and wall posters throughout the company.

And still customer service was poor! Insight: Maybe it’s not the floor staff that’s the problem, but the corporate culture!

customer-service-cartoon (1) Culture might be made visible by “how people behave”, but the drivers that cause and promote certain behaviours are very much buried on the internal business processes that are a part of the working of the company. So to understand why customer service remained poor, we had to look beyond people and training to how work really got done in the stores.

First we talked with sales clerks and floor staff and heard: “We know customer service is important and we’d really like to spend more time with customers, and the new training has been excellent, but we don’t have time. The supervisors demand we report stock levels and inventory on certain items, and it takes up a lot of time.”

Next we talked to department supervisors and heard: “I really wish we could focus more on customers, but the buyers ring us at all hours of the day for stock reports on key items and we have to give them the data so they can reorder.”

We then asked the merchandise managers about the issue and heard: “Of course customer service is important, but we get penalised depending on overage or shortages of key stock items and the only way to get the information is from the stores.”

We then sat in on a couple of senior executive meetings and discovered that the majority of the time and the agenda was focused on what stock is selling and what is not. Not one discussion in the entire meeting about customer service!

For me, two important things emerged from this experience:

  • First, organisations are shadows of their leaders and what the senior team focuses on is what tends to drive behaviour from top to bottom.
  • Second is that the business requirement for flash stock reporting and inventory checking drove behaviours that were actually counter to better customer service. Replacing the entire floor staff with professionally trained retail sales people still wouldn’t have mattered because the time available for customers was taken up by random and frequent stock checks.

They didn’t have a culture of poor service, they had a culture of excessive focus on merchandise stock levels and a leadership team which said one thing and did another! Yes customers received poor service, but it wasn’t caused by poor service behaviours.

Over the past 35 years of helping senior leadership teams improve business performance and reshape culture, I have tried to avoid using huge culture surveys with lots of questions, in favour of a more detective like approach to looking for root causes.  More often than not, the root cause resides in the work practices, policies and management requirements that cause people to behave in certain ways in order to comply.

A more recent case study in culture change and the importance of investigating work practices and company policies as key behaviour drivers comes from the successful reshaping of Walgreens from a seller of drugs and prescription filler to a customer-centered, prescription information and support culture.  One of the keys was to free up management time from paperwork and reports to coaching and supporting staff.

Next time you think culture change is just about people change, you might want to take a closer look!

Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   
FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Life Lesson . . . in Leadership

michaeljordan_failure_quote_wpic

Walter Brennan, three-time Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor, stared in a 32 episode TV series, The Tycoon, between 1964-1965.  The very first episode was entitled “Horatio Alger Again”, and I remember watching it with amazement, because that one episode changed my paradigm about success and failure.  The plot was very simple.  Walter, a successful and wealthy self-made tycoon, took a bet that he could start over, from scratch with nothing, and build a successful business in three months.

In my young mind at that time (I was just 16 years old) success was all about having great experience and knowledge in one industry and working hard, using that expert knowledge, to get to the top.  And also, successful people in big companies got to the top through political skill, and not often the positive kind.  My view of business at that time was shaped by my parents, both teachers, who didn’t make much money and couldn’t understand how other people got rich, except by devious means.

Anyway, Walter was dropped into a small town with only money for a hotel room and had three months to prove his abilities to become a success again, from scratch. Needless to say, using his leadership skills and ability to “find out what customers really need”, he got a job in an auto repair shop as a mechanic.  After listening and talking to customers he discovered that many people had trouble with the mechanical jack used to raise the car in order to change a tire. So, he invented an electric jack that plugged into the car cigarette lighter socket for power. In a few short months he built a thriving business, which he sold to his old company for mega-bucks.

What I learned from that episode opened my eyes to what leadership is all about.  It’s not about what you have done in the past, your position in the community or your wealth. Real leadership is about being able to use your leadership skills to shape a positive future going forward, whatever situation you find yourself in.  A good definition of leadership is “the ability and willingness to shape a positive future”.

Failure is an opportunity to start again, more intelligently.  ~Henry Ford

It’s not uncommon in today’s volatile economy for people to be laid off from work. Even highly paid bankers, once the “captains of industry”, can quickly find themselves without a job, and no one is hiring.

Life is a cruel teacher, she gives the test first and the lesson afterward.

So, how do people respond when ill fortune arrives?  Do they wait for things to get better? Or, like Walter Brennan’s character in the TV show, do they use their leadership skills and personal capabilities to rebuild?

If dropped off in a new town, could you rebuild? Leadership is an activity, not a position or title.

Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

Just published: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   
FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

PS: John also writes thriller novels 

 

 

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Why Corporate Culture is more like Physics than Human Resources.

6-blind-men-hans

The old story of the elephant and the blind men is as poignant as ever in revealing a profound lesson:

Several blind men came across an elephant and never having seen an elephant, each had a different description based on which part of the elephant they encountered, and each believed theirs to be the true description.

For the past 30 years Corporate Culture has been described and researched by a number of different academic and business experts; each with their own version of the truth.  For those from an HR and organisation behaviour background, culture is about how people behave, the values they hold and the values stressed and promoted by management. From the culture consultants and big consulting firms, they see culture as a leadership and management issue and thus the problem with your culture is really caused by lack of alignment at the level of the senior leadership team. More recently, when social network experts started looking at corporate culture, they believe there is no single culture but instead an organisation is a collection of subcultures informally organised as social networks. And when the strategy folks think about culture, they see it as an execution issue where the culture either is an asset to help deliver the strategy, or a business risk which can block strategy execution.

One elephant, many different points of view. And each vigorously defended!

Like corporate culture today, the scientific and academic world of the 17th Century was a newton-Philosophiae-naturalis-principi-mathematicaconfusing and contradictory place until Sir Isaac Newton came along and wrote his seminal work, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, (Latin for “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) in 1687. The Principia states Newton’s laws of motion, forming the foundation of classical mechanics, also Newton’s law of universal gravitation, and a derivation of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, and took an integrated approach, based on a set of fundamental principles, to explain how the physical world worked. The Principia is widely regarded as one of the most important works in the history of science since an understanding and use of these fundamental principles has led to man’s ability to explore space, split the atom and create engineering and scientific breakthroughs. Since everything works on a set of basic fundamental principles.

Principles of Corporate Culture:

I believe the concept of corporate culture also has a set of fundamental principles that, if properly understood, can be used to both explain, build and reshape corporate culture and improve organisation performance. An understanding of these fundamental principles allows us to answer a variety of culture related questions that impact business results:

  • Where do I look to find the strengths and weaknesses of our current culture?
  • What are the key levers for culture change?
  • How fast can a culture change take place?
  • What is the role of leadership in shaping and leading culture?
  • How is our current corporate culture a business risk or a barrier to strategy execution?
  • How is culture formed in the first place?
  • Why do most culture change programs fail?

These and other business related culture issues gain more clarity with an understanding of the fundamental principles of corporate culture. In a recent book, LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture, many of the principles of culture are described, using modern business examples to bring them to life. Here is an annotated list of the principles of corporate culture:

  • Every organization, large or small, start-up or mature, has a culture.
  • Culture impacts performance, but figuring out exactly how is often extremely difficult.
  • Culture is either designed, or left to develop by default. Either way, you will have a culture.
  • If the overall corporate culture is ignored, it tends to break up into strong subcultures.
  • Not all elements of culture have the same impact on performance. Don’t believe in averages.
  • Leadership behavior is most impactful in determining culture in the early start-up years. Over time, peer pressure and subcultures becomes increasingly more important.
  • Most senior executives have no clue about the subcultures in their company or their influence on performance.
  • You get the culture you ignore.
  • Every day is filled with ‘coachable moments’ to help build a strong and aligned culture.
  • People don’t change their values when they enter your company, but they can change their ways of thinking and workplace behaviors to match the existing culture.
  • Culture is most easily recognized through habitual behaviors, rituals and policies.
  • Culture assessments can never measure the ‘real’ culture, only an approximation. Choose the assessment that best fits the business challenge you are trying to solve.
  • Policies and work processes are extremely strong determinants of corporate culture, because they promote repetitive behaviors.
  • A strong culture is one which best matches the strategy.
  • Weak cultures usually are a collection of strong subcultures but with no alignment or common purpose.
  • Don’t confuse a culture audit with a climate survey. You might go charging off in the wrong direction.
  • A strong culture won’t make up for a poor strategy, and a great strategy can’t be delivered by a weak culture.
  • A bad leader can ruin a good culture faster than a good leader can turnaround a bad culture.
  • Consultants don’t change cultures, leaders and employees do.
  • Avoid using the term culture change, it just adds resistance you don’t need.
  • There is no perfect corporate culture.
  • Find the one or two non-negotiable work behaviors that will most dramatically improve the business. There lies your leverage to reshape the culture.
  • Most culture value statements are useless. Less than 50% of executives can name all their stated corporate values.
  • Selective hiring is more effective than culture training.

Okay, so these are definitely not as rigorous and mathematical as Newton’s principles of physics, but they are excellent guidelines to help senior executives better understand the barriers to improved business performance and also understand their own role in leading and reshaping culture.

If you don’t understand your culture, you don’t understand your business.

Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   
FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

 

 

 

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“Who’s Missing from this Meeting?”

Rockwell speech

Most business strategy and operations meetings are packed, standing room only, mainly because everyone wants to represent their function, protect their departmental budgets, and push for their ideas on strategy and products.  The room is full of people, ideas, and agendas, some open and obvious, several hidden.  Running a successful meeting is not for the faint of heart and it is during such meetings that an observer can easily determine the level of alignment, teamwork and shared objectives, or not!

There are numerous books and HBR articles written with excellent “do’s” and “don’ts” about how to run an effective meeting. One of the best I have found that is full of practical insights on the human side of meetings was written many years ago by a colleague of mine, Robert Kausen.  The book is: We’ve Got To Start Meeting Like This!: How to Get Better Results with Fewer Meetings.

I must say that over my 35+ years of supporting strategy execution and business performance, no matter how may people there are in the meeting, there is almost always one important voice missing!  The Voice of the Customer!

It’s not far off to say that 95% of most meeting time is taken up with internal issues. Costs, telescopebudgets, schedules and sales usually lead the way and it is this type of inside-out thinking and behaviour that tends to create more problems than it actually solves. Many years ago I supported a very talented new General Manager, Ian Walsh, turnaround a nearly bankrupt, once market leading aircraft engine company, Lycoming Engines. One of the key issues that Ian and his leadership team focused on was, Voice of the Customer.  In fact, their vision was written as: “Return to Profitability by Listening to the Voice of Our Customers”. And they did, on both.

Let’s face it, who pays your salary?  If you say the company, you have failed business 101A! The customer pays our salary! Without customers buying our products and services, and telling their friends and social networks to shop at your stores or use your services, your business will stagnate.

I often evaluate senior leadership teams on their focus and alignment around key business issues.  And in nearly every case, no matter what the industry, issues about customer insights, customer data, customer information, customer wants and needs, tend to score the lowest.

It’s never too late to take an Outside-In look at your business.  You might be pleasantly surprised at what you learn.

Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

Just published: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   
FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

 

 

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The 3 Wishes of the CEO . . .

Genie

And the Genie said, “I will grant you three wishes, and you can’t wish for more wishes, so choose wisely!”

Across the globe nearly everyone knows the story of the Genie and the three wishes. Each culture tends to have its own set of characters and circumstances (Sinbad and the Genie, the Merchant and the Genie, the fisherman and the Genie, etc.), but the actions of the wisher and the moral of the fables tend to be similar.  Don’t waste your wishes on frivolous things that really don’t deliver happiness or good fortune.

While I don’t have a magic lantern with a Genie inside who grants wishes, I often ask the CEOs I work with what are the three things that keep them up night after night and that they wish they could fix in their business?  While I occasionally get a few flippant responses, such as “a billion dollars in the bank” or “more customers”, more often than not the same three concerns tend to be at the core of their wishes.

1.    Senior Team Alignment

The first is how to get the senior team to work better together, collaborate and focus on delivering the overall business strategy. Many senior teams are not really teams, but collections of highly talented functional super stars that tend to focus most of their time on their functional silos and little time on collectively driving the company strategy forward.

Figure 2

This non-team behaviour often results in lack of resource sharing, hoarding information, lack of transparency, blaming others, squabbles over limited internal resources and budget battles. The CEO just wants to get everyone on the same page and working together to deliver the overall business objectives, since maximising individual functional objectives does not always lead to overall superior company performance. And the constant tension among the team tends to wear people down and has a negative impact on the morale of those below.

 And for a team that is working well together, whenever one or more new players are recruited in, the positive team dynamic often becomes negatively impacted. Most CEOs don’t have a trusted process or robust intervention that can quickly rebuild the team alignment and collective focus.

 2.    Culture as a Business Risk

The second concern is that the current corporate culture may contain significant risk to the business. A good example is the current culture within many global banks that has allowed significant and sometimes widespread instances of fraud, “casino behavior” and unethical business dealings. Other examples include the “profit-centric and cost-control” culture at BP that led to unsafe behaviours and ultimately the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig disaster with its loss of life and significant economic and ecological damage.

 The problem here is that many CEOs and senior executives don’t really know what their current cultural strengths and weaknesses are, and most don’t really understand what culture is, where it comes from, how it positively or negatively impacts performance, and how to shape or reshape corporate culture.

If you don’t understand your corporate culture, you don’t understand your business!

The risks inherent in a unguided corporate culture range from lack of competitive agility to fraudulent business activities that can bring down even the biggest of organisations.

 3.  Greater Employee Engagement and Accountability in Execution

The third is how to create better alignment for executing business and strategic objectives. Every CEO realizes that employee engagement and loyalty are currently at all time lows and unengaged (either actively or passively) employees are not fully productive. In addition, innovation and customer service suffers. Also, unengaged employees are more resistant to change and less agile when external market circumstances call for changes in the business. How to increase engagement and improve the ability of the organisation to execute on its strategy is a key CEO concern.

In most cases, lack of execution is the result of a lack of process and process discipline. In fact, those companies with a robust and disciplined “strategy execution process”, that includes employee communication and engagement as well as frequent governance and progress transparency, tend to outperform companies lacking such a process.  Having clear objectives is important, but having a robust execution process is the key to execution and delivery.

Figure 2

From Wishes to Actions

Every problem has a solution, given enough determination and courage.

While the wishes granted by the Genie are a fable, these three major concerns of the CEO can be turned into launching ramps for improved performance with the right understanding, information, processes and discipline.  All that is left is the courage of leadership.

Thanks for joining the conversation.

John R Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

+44-208-741-6390  office
+44-7833-493-999  uk mobile
e: 
john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog
Business Books Website

Just published: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   
FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

PS: John also writes thriller novels 

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