Early on in my consulting career I worked alongside a Retail Operations Improvement firm. They did the retailing operations and I was involved in the training of staff, store managers and team training. One of the interesting innovations I saw implemented to improve selling effectiveness in retail stores at that time was the concept of a “Retail Planogram“.
Any good retailer realises the key to increased sales is through proper merchandising. A retail planogram is one of the best merchandising tools for presenting products to the customer. Basically this is a schematic drawing that shows the visual placement of each product and how the entire merchandise section should be arranged. This created both consistency and efficiency for staff set-up and restocking, but also, through actual research of customer shopping behaviours, the planogram positioned products in categories, by shelf height, and brand attraction to provide the best merchandising display to match consumer needs.
Fast forward several decades and the rate of opening new retail stores, whether franchises or big box retail stores has dramatically increased. In order to make store development and opening more cost efficient, the concept of “store in a box” has evolved. Basically this is a retail planogram on steroids for an entire store. For some smaller franchise operations, the entire store fittings, equipment, stock, everything comes prepackaged in a big truck, ready to be set up according to the planograms provided. Instant store! Quick, convenient, cost-effective, and properly branded and merchandised.
Corporate Culture in a Box?
In today’s fast-moving business world where margins are forever being squeezed, technology is seen as the way to improve business results in real-time. Using multiple technology platforms, a plethora of corporate culture measurement and assessment firms have recently emerged. Some are just technology platforms that allow you to do company-wide or pulse surveys to track employee engagement. Others are technology companies with added “business advisory” in the area of engagement and culture. Many are silicon valley type start-ups funded by Venture Capital funds and playing off the growing interest of the millennial generation in working for a firm with a culture that matches their values and work-life balance requirements. More and more of these culture assessment technology start-ups are being acquired by large global consulting firms to add to their client offerings.
And each one is different. That is, they each measure different elements of the workplace and call it, the corporate culture. How do you know which are the right culture measures for your business? It feels to me like you are comparing your unique company culture to whatever the “culture planogram” from the technology black box says it should be.
Never have I seen a corporate culture assessment that starts with the company strategy, then develops the issues to evaluate. I mean, really, a great culture must match both the strategic requirements plus the capabilities of the leaders. Unless culture is designed to serve (and advance) these two business drivers, then you may have a “nice” set of cultural norms, but it is hard to see how culture can become a real business enabler, let alone a competitive advantage.
He who knows why will always win over those who just know what or how! ~Thomas D. Willhite
And the next problem I have with “Culture in a Box” assessments is that just because you know what the scores are on the various cultural dimensions, you still don’t know WHY they are high or low, nor is there any information in these scores as to how to better align the culture to the business strategy and leadership capabilities. It’s as if the goal is measurement.
The real goal is building a culture for competitive advantage. An assessment can tell you WHAT is high and low, but it won’t tell you WHY?
To me this trend of easy, technology enabled culture assessments is a new fad, akin to the time when we were beginning to automate business processes and many business found themselves automating broken processes. The process wasn’t effective, but at least it was automated and required less human cost to run!
Time for a Rethink!
I have a suggestion to those CEOs and business leaders who really believe, like David Novak of Chairman of YUM! Brands and author of Taking People With You, that culture can be a significant competitive business asset (or liability). Let’s all step back and really look at the issue of culture from the standpoint of the business.
If your corporate culture, like brand equity, were on the balance sheet, would it be an asset or a liability? (The answer has been pretty clear for global banking and the US Congress). Why do you have the culture you have, strong or weak? What are the real drivers of YOUR corporate culture? How would you reshape it to build competitive advantage?
These are the real business questions we should be asking about corporate culture. Not, what is our culture score and how does it compare to our peer group?
If you don’t understand your corporate culture, then you don’t understand your business? ~John R Childress
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
John also writes thriller novels!