Closing the Gaps on Culture

One of the comments on my last blog, If Employees Don’t Believe; Customers Won’t Believe, was something to the effect of: “So how do you close the gap?” Good question. To set the stage for an answer, I need to point out a fact that 40 years of experience has taught me; if there is one sure-thing about company leaders it is this: Most of them don’t know jack about culture.

Broken overpass

That’s too bad as the knowledge for understanding, building, and changing cultures is really deep and available to all. While I am not the first one to make either point, culture may be the only aspect of enterprise leadership (e.g., strategy, branding, marketing, and finance) where academia has set the pace for useful discovery. Given what practitioners so often lament – a weak or wrong culture – this missing tool is a significant loss. This shortcoming is given perspective when you think about what culture is: The shared values, beliefs, and mindsets that determine the thinking and behavior of a group.

Beliefs are the tipping point for culture as they have to do with how the enterprise defines its success and how that success is to be achieved. In my last blog I pointed out that ensuring your employees understand and share your culture is the first step toward ensuring that your customers believe in your company. The relationship between beliefs and other important aspects of building an enterprise looks like this:

Values->Beliefs->Vision->Goals->Policies->Strategy->Procedures->Behaviors->Experiences->Results->Culture and Brand

Because this is a blog, this is a simplified model of the one that I use when doing culture or brand building projects. The fact that it is simplified gives you some idea of why most culture change efforts fail: important stuff is left out!

Closing the gaps between the existing culture and the culture that a company’s leaders would like to have starts at the top left with testing their values and beliefs about success and how it is achieved. As much as they would like to start in other places (procedural or strategic change are favs), the place to start is with the leadership team’s beliefs. Just as it is for employees, leaders won’t enthusiastically implement any change they don’t believe in. That’s why we use two proven tools to assess leader values and beliefs; namely, ValueMap™ and CultureMap™. Systematically working from left to right with no shortcuts is what leads to the pot of gold that is your company’s brand and culture.  The trick is to constantly ensure that the leadership team’s values and beliefs about success are aligned with the most immediate steps to your intended culture: vision, goals, and policies.  If they are not, there is little hope for alignment of more tangible aspects of culture such as individual behavior, stakeholder experiences, and results.

Woman jumping over broken overpass

Closing the gaps is essential to creating motivated and enthusiastic teams that believe in your enterprise and create loyal customers. Gain a deeper understand of culture and how to move from what your culture “is” to what it “should be” by reading our “What is Organizational Culture?” Whitepaper.

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