“Our number one priority is company culture and our whole belief is that, if we get the culture right, then most of the other stuff like delivering great service or building a long term endearing brand will just happen naturally on its own.”
– Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
If there is truly a siren song among CEOs today it surely must revolve around one theme: organizational culture.
The lyrics go something like this: Fix it. Change it. Improve it. Strengthen it. Just don’t lament it.
Why is culture so important to CEOs and more importantly the entire business? Because Culture is everything. Culture dictates behavior. Culture encourages collaboration and sharing. Culture is community. Culture identifies one with the purpose and belief of the entity. Culture is a frame of reference, a center of gravity for people to make sense out of everything the organization says and does.
Beyond norms, values and principles, Culture either breeds innovation or stagnation. Openness and candor or myopia. Success or sabotage. Confidence or cynicism.
Most importantly, Culture outlives people including CEOs and Boards.
No business strategy – no matter how well planned and designed – will be effective if it’s not compatible with Culture.
“Let’s take what we are good at and rethink it. That’s not a side project. That is the very company itself…Until we really change culturally, no renewal happens.”
– Satya Nadella, CEO of MICROSOFT
So how does one go about transforming culture if it’s so ingrained?
It starts with one critical question – Is the planned strategy (and CEO priorities) compatible with the current Culture?
If yes, then no real change is needed. If no, then a series of actions need to be enacted in order to ensure success.
So, how can a CEO change or shift the Culture to gain the future? Try the following…
“I kind of hate when we talk about culture.” What is culture? It’s how people behave. So if we want to change this elusive culture, it’s changing behaviors. And that becomes actionable very quickly. It’s everyone’s behaviors. It’s mine—I have to change my behaviors. It’s every interaction I have with the leadership team. It’s every time I interact with employees, being crystal clear about my expectations. And frankly, you know, that’s somewhat different than maybe General Motors has been in the past.”
– Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors
At its most clinical description – an amalgamation of expectations, values, and truths that guide attitudes and behaviors that are passed from one generation of employees to another and therefore become ingrained in the enterprise – is often viewed as a necessary evil, so to speak, an organizational reality.
In a social and digital environment where everyone has a voice and competition is akin to three dimensional chess, Culture is either a CEO’s asset or enemy. Undoing cultural norms and supplementing outdated beliefs and habits can arguably be the number one priority of the modern CEO.
If not, then a CEO’s strategy and all of its components – innovation, product supremacy, and customer intensity – will never have the opportunity to flourish.
Be the first to start a conversation