Three Keys to Culture Transformation: Lead, engage, align

Diana Rivenburgh

by Diana Rivenburgh

What causes cultures to run amok? Why do people do things they never thought they would? Perhaps the most important question is “what can we do to create ethical, high performance, engaged cultures?”

You only have to scan the daily headlines to find evidence of dysfunctional cultures:

“Pfizer caught running global bribery network,”
“JP Morgan Chase Will Pay $13 Billion in Record Settlement,”
“Cheating Probe Roils Philadelphia Schools.”

[This week: “HSBC left itself open to criminal charges, says Lord Macdonald” ED]

What causes cultures to run amok?

Why do people do things they never thought they would? Perhaps the most important question is “what can we do to create ethical, high-performance, engaged cultures?”

While there’s no lack of examples of toxic cultures, there are many organizations where people love their work, go above and beyond, strive for innovation and collaborate for greater results. Culture does more than create a great place to work. Research over several decades from Denison Consulting and others clearly shows the correlation between culture and every financial and productivity measure you can think of.

Whether you seek to create the culture for your new firm or change an existing one, focus your efforts on three keys for culture transformation – lead, engage and align.

Lead:

Toxic leaders create toxic cultures. Vibrant leaders create vibrant cultures. Culture begins to form from the very beginning based on the founder’s vision, values and style, and continues to evolve as new leaders join.

Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz held faithfully to the company’s values even when, in 2008, the company’s stock price dropped 52% and its fourth quarter earnings were down 97%. Shultz firmly believes that making money and raising stock prices are shallow goals unless they are linked to creating value for society and people. This commitment paid off as the company’s stock percolated up to record earnings.

Engage:

Engaged employees bring their best to work everyday, go above and beyond, invest extra time and effort, and find ways to continuously improve and innovate. Organizations with highly engaged workforces identify individual strengths, place people in roles that fit these strengths, develop strong leaders and managers and create the right work environment for success.

Novo Nordisk, the world’s leading provider of insulin, recognizes the value of culture and employee engagement to its business success. This Danish-based pharmaceutical company audits employee engagement every year and requires all its managers to have engagement plans in place. Managers work with employees to identify strengths and set them up for success by placing them in roles where they can tap into these assets.

Align:

Every organization operates with management systems comprised of processes, policies and practices for hiring, training, performance management, communication, compensation and governance. All of these as well as its organizational structure and workspace design must align to achieve the desired culture.

A client of ours was dealing with chaos and frustration after going through multiple acquisitions. Identifying and changing many of their systems, practices and structures to align to their strategy and desired culture resulted in stronger collaboration, higher engagement, improved client satisfaction and greater profitability.

Towards a high performance culture

Take a look at your organization to determine the ways you can lead better, engage your people, and align your management practices to achieve the high performance culture needed to realize your company’s vision and achieve its strategic goals.

Background :

This post was edited and updated from Diana’s post published in LWD earlier, [January 30th, 2014].

Diana Rivenburgh @sustainableorgs is a consultant, speaker, recovering corporate executive, author of The New Corporate Facts of Life and Top 100 Thought Leader for Trustworthy Business 2014

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