Leadership. Is there an App for that?

honey its me

There’s an app for just about everything these days. Some of them are useful, such as an alarm clock app, GPS map apps, email apps, Passbook for storing airline boarding passes and concert tickets, The Economist app for international insights, Skype and What’sApp for communicating free over the internet.  Some are entertaining (and maddening at times) such as Candy Crush, Solitare, Mah Jung.

Others are downright weird. Such as “Honey, It’s Me”, a Korean app which features a lovely young Korean girl, Mina, as your digital girlfriend who leaves you wake up messages and other messages for the lonely during the day. And it gets even weirder with the iFart Mobile app, which transforms your iPhone into a virtual fart machine. Good for laughs, or so they say.

My latest research shows that as of July 2015, on the various app stores (Google play, Apple store, Amazon, etc.) there are over 4 million apps available for download on mobile platforms. And the number is growing daily.

Leadership Apps?

And sure enough, there are apps on leadership.  Dale Carnegie Training has several leadership apps; Personal Leadership, Team Leadership, Company Leadership, and the Secrets of Success in English, arabic, Portuguese and Spanish. There is Speak Like a CEO from McGraw-Hill supposedly giving you the secrets for better communication in any business environment. Numerous other so-called leadership apps deliver articles and summaries from books on leadership, some provide a leadership self-test followed by standard developmental reading.

Did Gordon Bethune use a leadership app to dramatically turnaround Continental Airlines (From Worst to First)? Did Jack Welch use a leadership app to grow GE from a market value of $2o billion to over $400 billion in 20 years. Did Tony Hseih use a leadership app to build Zappos to $1 billion in sales in just 10 years?  Did Reed Hastings use a leadership app to keep growing and innovating at Netflix?

Okay, apps weren’t even around during the time of Jack Welch and Gordon Bethune, but you get the point.

There is no shortcut or cliff-notes for effective leadership.

Leadership is a journey from novice to master that requires facing tough situations, making difficult choices, and learning from mistakes.  It also takes a healthy dose of understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses. You don’t get those by reading a book or glancing at your iPhone.

You develop leadership acumen through leading, not reading.

Those who really want to improve their leadership don’t just go to Advanced Management Courses at a top business school.  The best leadership learning is experiential.  They volunteer for the toughest jobs in the company.  They willingly raise their hand to clean up the messes of poor M&A integration, failed ERP implementations, opening new regions far from headquarters, creating new markets and products. They get up to their eyeballs in the issues, both business issues and people issues. The don’t give up. They are willing to pull the plug rather than throw good money after bad. They take the decisions others avoid. They lead long before acquiring the title of leader.

Mission – Command – Control

mission commandThe US Army and Marine Corps (and other modern military forces)  drill into all its officers the process of Mission – Command – Control through constant case studies, war games and simulations. And scenario planning is great for knowing what to do if . . .  But on the battlefield or deep behind enemy lines almost every time there isn’t a well rehearsed scenario to fit the current situation that has just gone haywire.  That’s were the Mission comes in. In the Mission – Command – Control process the only constant is the mission. Command orders may change due to updated intelligence information. And often the control structure shifts rapidly as the “boss” is taken out of action. Plans often change, but the mission (and the values that go along with it) remain as the key guiding principle.

Every boxer has a plan, until they get punched in the face.  ~Mohammed Ali

If more business leaders would clearly articulate the mission and the leadership values, it would be easier to make better decisions in the field. Remember the core principles of how leaders behave in this company – if you don’t have these principles, you get behaviour formed from however the person grew up or from his/her last company. And lack of alignment among the leaders is a recipe for disaster.

And by the way, make profit is not the mission, that’s a result of a successful business mission.

Something to think about next time your iPhone pings you!

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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Before you jump on the culture change bandwagon . . .

Before you jump on the culture change bandwagon, there’s some reading you should do: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

leverage

 

The phrase “jump on the bandwagon” or “climb on the bandwagon”, is a popular saying, with a bandwagon being a wagon big enough to hold a band of musicians. In past political campaigns, candidates would ride a bandwagon through town, and people would show support for the candidate by climbing aboard the wagon. In modern-day usage the phrase has come to refer to joining a cause because of its popularity.

Bandwagon

The current business “bandwagon” seems to be corporate culture. And it is gaining momentum with such studies as the recently released news release by Korn Ferry Hay Group  on its recent global study on “Real World Leadership”.  According to the survey of more than 7,500 executives from 107 countries,  “driving culture change” ranks among the top three global leadership development priorities. The logical connection here with business performance is that most people believe that corporate culture has a direct impact on a company’s ability to execute on its competitive strategy, engage employees and hire and retain the best talent. And there is considerable evidence that this is the case.

And in a 2014 Korn Ferry survey, 72 percent of respondents agreed that culture is extremely important to organisational performance. However, only 32 percent said their culture aligns with their business strategy. Measuring or defining a corporate culture is a far cry from changing or reshaping it for improved performance. The distance between the two (culture assessment and culture change) is similar to deciding to lose 30 pounds and actually doing all the daily activities, from changing diet to regular exercise, that it takes to actually lose weight.

trumpOkay, so culture is a popular business topic. But being popular doesn’t necessarily mean that the causal factors of an ineffective culture or how to change culture is well understood. Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are very popular, but don’t have much of a track record in making positive change happen across a large nation.

My friend and business colleague Dr. Leandro Herrero, one of the few experienced practitioners of real culture change keeps saying that critical thinking and a solid understanding of change management and culture change is a rare element in most businesses.  It’s not that culture or culture change is rocket science, it’s just that it’s full of myths and anecdotes and short on actual tools and techniques that produce sustainable change.

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

A little study and critical thinking can save a lot of time, money and wasted energy jumping on the culture change bandwagon.

Here’s a few words from the introduction of LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture:

This Guidebook . . .

The problem with experts is they know too much and understand too little.

 It is my job in this short guidebook to clear up some of the mystery and misconceptions of what corporate culture is, why it matters, its impact on performance, where culture comes from, how to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own culture, and ultimately, how to develop and shape a corporate culture that supports and propels your organization towards its business and strategic objectives.

Big goals for such a little book! But I have had the help of some of the most talented and respected CEOs, senior executives and business leaders from around the world, who have built, led and worked in large global organizations as well as small to medium enterprises. Together we have talked about, explored, dissected, inspected, studied, mapped, and shifted corporate cultures, all with the goal of improving the lives of customers, employees, the environment, shareholders and other stakeholders. The experiences and insights gained from my 35-year career working with many CEOs and senior executive teams on corporate culture and culture change form the basis for this guidebook.

 Oops!!, the bandwagon just left the station.

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!

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, John R Childress, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Backpack Full of . . .

blog_heavy_backpacks-710x270

Most parents understand the problems of children stuffing their school backpacks with too many books, papers, calculators, pens, rulers and all sorts of stuff. It is painful to watch young children struggling with heavy backpacks, and not good for their posture or health either. My daughter was the same and wound up with chronic back problems that still every once in a while flare up.

The fact is, we can only carry so much around comfortably and effectively.

But I have noticed a much more insidious problem of carrying things around, not physical things, but mental things.

A Fable of the Man and the Rocks

Man carrying large rocks on his backOnce upon a time there was a man.  A normal person, like you or I, going through life, attending to work chores and life chores.  Things that needed to be done. But this man had a very bad habit.  Instead of dealing with each issue at once and getting it over with, he would decide to do it later.  As a result of deciding to “do it later”, after a while the number of “to do” items grew and grew and he became more and more worried about all the things he had to accomplish. And the more he worried, the more depressed he became with his heavy load of things to get done.

And by not acting up each item quickly, some of his “to do’s” were forgotten, resulting in a growing number of problems at work and home. This made him more depressed and ineffective.

Over time he started to believe he was an ineffective person and his self-esteem began to plummet, at which point he began to see himself as “just good enough” instead of “great”.  His dreams of greatness and fulfillment began to fade. More and more he settled for being mediocre. In his own mind the burden of striving to be great was just too heavy and unrealistic.

Then one weekend he was walking in the woods, trying to overcome his depression and feelings of mediocrity, when he  came across a man collecting rocks and putting them on his back. He watched for a while and noticed that the more rocks the man piled up, the more he struggled to walk forward. At one point the pile of rocks was so heavy the man even fell down, and it took excessive effort to stand up again.

Incredulous at this seemingly ridiculous behaviour, he approached the man, scolding him for being so stupid as to carry around such a large number of rocks. “Why don’t you just get rid of all those heavy rocks and make your journey lighter?” he asked.

“Why don’t you?” the man replied, and vanished in a puff of smoke.

Good Habits Build Character and Self-Esteem

Over the course of my life I have tried to learn many lessons about how to lead a rich and fulfilled life and accomplish bigger and bigger goals. And one of my biggest lessons concerns time management and its relation to personal self-esteem. The simple fact is, given the same IQ and same opportunities, the person with high self-esteem enjoys more success than the person with low self-esteem. High self-esteem makes people keep trying. Low self-esteem causes people to not even try, after all, they aren’t good enough.

And self-esteem is not genetic. It’s mental. It’s a product of thought.  And thoughts are self-generated. And one of the mental habits that fosters low self-esteem (and therefore poor results) is not attending to your “to do” list right away, but instead, piling them into your “mental backpack”. And, the more we decide to do later, the heavier the mental burden and sense of inadequacy.

Boston_MarathonTo be honest, for many years I was a world-class procrastinator. I had a huge mental backpack of things I should have done quickly, but instead carried them around. It was a heavy burden on my self-esteem.  Them, around age 40 my older brother challenged me to complete a marathon.

I had been an occasional runner, but not a committed runner. Well, I took the challenge, read everything I could about training for the grueling 26.2 mile race. I then bought a daily training log, made a 4 month training plan, carried my training plan, log book and running shoes on all my business trips and followed my weekly plan. It would have been easy to put off a training run during the week, especially when travelling, but long distance training, like any other physical and mental activity, can’t be properly accomplished by saving up all the daily “to do” runs and trying to make it all up on the weekend. The body adapts slowly, not in large, irregular spurts. To make a long story short, I not only completed my first marathon, The Big Sur Marathon near Carmel, California, but went on to run another 15 over the next several years.

But most importantly, I developed a habit of “do it now” that has been a great advantage for the rest of my business and personal life.

Want to reverse the “do it later”, store it in the backpack trend?  Want to grow your self-esteem, your confidence, and your performance? Don’t carry around a mental backpack full of “do it later” items. Build the habit of “do it now”. And it’s very simple.

How much time does it take to write a thank you note after an interview? An email takes about 45 seconds. A handwritten note not much longer. Done! Gone! Out of the “backpack” and surprisingly, you feel better about yourself! Do it now and watch your self-esteem and success soar!

Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Do it now!  ~Norman Vincent Peale

 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!

Posted in Human Psychology, John R Childress, Life Skills, parenting, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Healthy Culture is Not Forever . . .

christmas puppychained dog

When I was younger there was a television advertisement sponsored by the SPCA with the title: A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.  It featured a happy family around the Christmas tree playing with a new puppy, a present for the kids, then switched to a lonely, malnourished dog chained up in the backyard, obviously given very little love and attention by the family.  I remember crying the first time I watched it.

Everything needs attention and proper care. Plants need watering, fertilizer, pruning and the right climate for health and longevity.  Given the proper conditions, some trees grow to be hundreds of years old. And a healthy plant or tree is highly disease resistant. It is in drought conditions that many forests can easily become infested with disease, harmful beetles and caterpillars which multiply and destroy the trees.

ryan_trees1_met

A Healthy Corporate Culture is Not Forever

A healthy corporate culture needs attention and nurturing in order to remain fit for purpose.

In the early days of most organisations, leaders pay particular attention to the culture and in many companies the corporate culture is designed to support both the business strategy and employees. And the company grows.

During this growth period, new employees are added, new policies need to be put in place to ensure proper management of limited resources and good governance. But growth and success has its dangers.  And in many cases during this period management take their eyes off the culture and focus more on budgets, costs, competition, new products and other issues vital to continued growth.

unalignedAs a result, the once aligned corporate culture begins to fragment and deteriorate. An influx of new staff, all from different cultures with different work habits dilutes the culture. A common set of values, shared beliefs and work practices are diluted and no longer have the same power to enable business success.

A strong and healthy corporate culture begins to fracture into multiple subcultures,referee many no longer aligned with the overall company purpose, values and beliefs. This multiplication of subcultures causes internal conflict and “we-they”, “us against them” behaviours tend to dominate the work place. As a result precious management time is spent refereeing and trying to promote teamwork and sharing of information.

Whenever I am called in by a CEO to help with issues of turf-building, poor internal teamwork, loss of speed and agility to adapt to new market conditions, I always look at the level of cohesion in the culture as one of the culprits.

culture fragmentation

The Care and Feeding of Corporate Culture

Corporate culture needs attention. I believe it is one of the most important jobs of leaders at all levels to manage the culture in alignment with the business strategy. In fact, I preach that culture is a key element of any effective business strategy and there must be culture objectives, initiatives, KPIs and accountable owners.

Culture is not an initiative, it is the enabler of all initiatives.

Here are some key questions every business leader should ask:

  • Is corporate culture a key part of our business strategy?
  • Do we have a plan for aligning culture with the business strategy?
  • Is a healthy culture one of the performance measures of our senior team?
  • Do we assess and monitor the health and alignment of your culture on a regular basis?
  • Do we define and promote specific work behaviours that align with our culture?
  • Do leaders step up and step in when they see behaviour that is out of line with our culture?

Here’s some wisdom on culture from Warren Buffett:

We now employ more than 250,000 people and the chances of that number getting through the day without any bad behavior occurring is nil. But we can have a huge effect in minimizing such activities by jumping on anything immediately when there is the slightest odor of impropriety. Your attitude on such matters, expressed by behavior as well as words, will be the most important factor in how the culture of your business develops. Culture, more than rule books, determines how an organization behaves.    ~Warren Buffet

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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I Don’t Want to be a Leader, …

Shadow of Leader

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. —General Douglas MacArthur

My mentor, Thomas D. Willhite, told a story in one of our leadership training workshops in the mid-1970’s about a certain individual, who later became immensely wealthy and a respected business leader.  At the time of the story, this man was young and eager and attending a seminar on leadership and the principles of success held at a big hotel.  About half way through the first day of this week-long event, the lecturer, who was getting fired up with his own rhetoric and regaling the participants with stories of great leadership and great deeds throughout history, stopped and surveyed the packed room.  Eager eyes stared back, for the participants had paid their own money to attend and gain the pearls of wisdom on leadership and success.

He then spoke loudly. “If you want to be a leader, stand up!”  At which point, everyone in the large ballroom jumped up onto their feet, grinning with enthusiasm. Except one person who happened to be sitting in the center of the first row.

The lecturer walked off the stage and approached this seated individual. “And what’s wrong with you, young man? Don’t you want to be a leader?”

The reply came back quickly. “No, I want to be a leader of leaders”. At which point he stood up on his chair, head and shoulders above everyone else.

The purpose of leadership is to create more leaders, not more followers!  ~Ralph Nader

Many individuals carry the title or position of leader. It may be leader of the House of Representatives or leader of the Senate. It may be leader of a country, or leader of the city council, or leader of the church choir, or leader of the school board, or leader of the teacher’s union, or leader of a global company. The title and position carry with it access to power and influence that other’s aren’t given. And in many cases it comes with larger compensation and access to information and individuals otherwise restricted to those in lesser positions.rights andBut even more than rights and benefits, the role of leader comes with a long list of responsibilities, and it is often in the carrying out of those responsibilities that we begin to see the real character of the individual.

Character is the most important aspect of leadership. Character either energises or alienates.

Leadership is not a title or position. Leadership is about action, about behaving and talking in ways that energize and elevate others to go beyond what they thought was possible, in order to benefit mankind and society. The leader who only acts for his or her own self-interest (read most current American politicians) ranks lowest on the gradient of leadership. Those who think first and foremost about the interest of society at large are those who will become a leader of leaders.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.  ~John Quincy Adams

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!

Posted in Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Space Archeology and Corporate Culture: Seeing the Big Picture

space archeology

Big Data or the Big Picture?

There is a lot of talk in business circles about the usefulness of Big Data and the ability to derive meaningful customer and strategic insights from crunching a large volume and variety of data sets. While I am a believer in the value of data, I am also equally a fan of “seeing the big picture” as a way of gaining insight about business and in particular, corporate culture.

Let me give you an example of seeing the big picture.  And in this case, a very big picture.

It’s called “space archeology” and has been pioneered by Dr. Sarah Parcak, associate professor of Anthropology and director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

sarah_parcak_lost_pyramidsBasically, instead of searching for archeological historical sites on the ground, Sarah used imagery obtained from orbiting satellites to find previously undiscovered historical sites and to be able to see these sites even when covered over by agriculture and urbanization.  You might be interested in watching the TED talk by Dr. Parcak.

“This isn’t just another ‘gee whiz’ toy,” she says. “It’s a genuine scientific tool with proven, published results from Egypt to Syria to Italy to Easter Island. It has so much potential and possibility. It transforms every aspect about how we see and understand our past.”

By seeing the big picture, Dr. Parcak has been able to use satellite and infrared imagery to locate hundreds of undiscovered sites in Egypt and to gain new insights into the culture and history of ancient Egypt.

The Big Picture and Corporate Culture

My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity.  —  Edgar Mitchel, Apollo 14 astronaut

Most of the current avenues for exploring corporate culture involve “point in time” surveys, assessments and at times, focus groups.  Questions are asked of a large number of employees within the company (Big Data) and scores are often grouped into categories and then correlated with company performance to infer the strengths and weaknesses of the current culture and to suggest how culture impacts performance.

To me, this approach seems dry and somehow unfulfilling.  Maybe that’s why many senior executives and CEOs still find the concept of corporate culture to “fluffy” to take seriously. However, when we take a big picture view of an organization, say a chart describing revenue growth or headcount growth, it immediately begins to suggest a story of evolution and change with profound implications on leadership, management, strategy and performance.

Take the following company revenue growth chart over the past    years as an example. Like looking down on a particular country or region from an orbiting satellite, here we see the “big picture” growth history of a company. Not just at one particular time period, but over the whole life of this company. It’s not space archeology, it’s “corporate culture archeology”.

culture history

 This big picture view of a company suggests some areas ripe for investigation to better understand the current corporate culture in relation to the past historical cultures?

  • Are the cultures of A, B and C different?
  • If so, how?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these three cultures?
  • How aligned are each of these three cultures with their relevant business and strategic objectives?
  • What changed between cultures B and C and why?
  • Are elements of Culture B impacting the recent revenue decline? How?
  • What are the major culture change levers that can be used to improve performance?

I’m certain you can think of another dozen important and insightful areas to explore given this big picture view of the organization.

Let’s see where big picture corporate culture archeology will take us in our quest to better align leadership, culture and performance!

The big picture doesn’t just come from distance; it also comes from time. ~Simon Sinek

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!

 

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

Understanding Corporate Culture in the Context of Time

appletimeline

There is nothing permanent except change.  ~Heraclitus

From the years 1966 through 1974 I studied evolutionary biology at both undergraduate and graduate levels.  Seeing the world through the dimension of evolutionary time provides an all important context for understanding why things are the way they are. Human behaviour is more easily understood when one adds in the dimension of time.  In the case of human beings, a short three million year journey from the treetops of Africa to so-called modern civilisation.

To know that survival among early humanoids centered around belonging to a group or tribe helps us understand the fascinating phenomenon of the rapid adoption of fads and trends in fashion and the explosive uptake of social media. As a species we are hard-wired to belong to a group of like-minded people. To be left out of the group, at work or in a social setting, is both uncomfortable and concerning to most people.

Time provides both context and perspective when trying to understand the world around us.

Corporate culture and the dimension of time:

As a senior executive advisor whose role is to help companies become more effective at strategy execution and overall performance, like may others I want to understand the current corporate culture and how it impacts, either positively or negatively, the ability of the company to deliver on its strategic and business objectives.

However, while most culture consultants focus on the current corporate culture through the use of structured assessments and surveys, I try to understand not only what the culture is like, but more importantly, why it is the way it is.  Is it overly bureaucratic and hierarchical? Why?  Is it plagued with lack of accountability and a low sense of urgency? Why?  Is the culture inward focused or customer focused?  Why?

He who knows why will always win over those who only know what or how!  ~Thomas D. Willhite

And looking at the evolution of the company and the culture over time provides great insight into the current culture drivers, and more importantly, the levers for reshaping the culture to better fit the go forward business strategy of the company.

Here is a (fictitious) example of a nearly 100-year-old company doing business in over 50 countries today. The organisation currently has approximately 2,300 employees, does roughly $500 million in revenue, is the recognised brand leader in its industry, and is struggling with a culture of poor accountability and lack of sense of urgency.

While a normal culture survey will be able to point out such accountability and lack of urgency issues, it does not tell us why these issues exist or give much insight into the change levers required to better align the culture with the forward strategy.

As a result, most culture change consultants will use their standard methodology, usually patterned after the work of Harvard professor John Kotter and his 8-step culture change approach, to attempt a culture change

kotter 8 steps

But why take a shotgun approach hoping to hit the right targets when you can laser in to the 2 or 3 key culture drivers and change levers?

Let’s look at this same company through the eyes of evolutionary change. Reviewing the overall history and talking to those who have been around a long time gives important insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the current culture in relation to the business strategy.

When looking at the this historical growth chart, it becomes obvious to ask some key questions about the various phases of the company history. And these questions allow us to gain a more complete picture of why things are currently the way they are.  Based on how the company has grown over the past decades it is easy to see how the culture has evolved, and determine insights into the important culture question: WHY?

Cultures ABC

The forces driving both the business results and the company culture are very different during the three phases of the company’s history. Why the flat growth during phase A and what was the culture like?  What were the internal pressures on the culture during phase B and did it shift to match the explosive growth? What culture change drivers were different between culture  A and B? Why? Obviously the growth trajectory of the company has now slowed down. Did Culture B contain the seeds of the growth demise? Why? What are the internal and external pressures impacting Culture C? Why?

Answers to these important evolutionary questions are critical to understand the 2-3 key culture change levers as the company attempts to align culture with a new growth strategy.

There are no secrets that time does not reveal.  ~Jean Racine

Don’t just look at a current culture “snapshot” from a one-dimensional culture survey, watch the movie!

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!

 

 

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment