Why is it, with seemingly equal companies, that one will triumph and another does not? What is the key to success? How can leaders in an organization positively impact outcomes?
The professor of the MIT Sloan School of Management, Edgar Schein, sums it up in one sentence:
“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.”
How many organizations do you know where culture is not a pending issue? In fact, all organizations have things to improve with respect to culture.
What is it really about culture?
We like to explain it through five concepts: purpose, people, process, environment, and results. If the five are aligned, we have a greater chance to get what we expect. Otherwise, we will have a lot of work to fix.
Do we have to do something to create culture? No. It is like the earth. It is there, even if we do nothing with it. All companies have it, although some of them ignore it. What happens i that they do not actively cultivate it and therefore are exposed to the consequences.
“Companies are actually living organisms, not machines. We keep bringing in mechanics when what we need are gardeners.” – Peter Senge
This is the main problem today in many mature organizations that are oriented to the product and not the customer, the process and not the experience, the image and not the reputation. The outstanding subject of most organizations that existed in the last century is to cultivate a creative culture centered on the client.
Where do we start?
For recognizing that, we have some major and difficult challenges to overcome. The first step in fixing something is to recognize that it is broken. There are at least five of these challenges we should consider:
- New management is complex because it depends on people (unpredictable), not processes (predictable).
- Learning is key. What we know today, we must unlearn tomorrow (not forget it) to learn something else.
- The management style of “command and control” is obsolete. Now it is not necessary to command but to influence positively (lead).
- Collaboration is not optional. We need to create collaborative spaces; internal and external, virtual and physical.
- Teamwork is the only way to compete. We can not succeed with individualism, but we need all the individual skills to add to the team.
The most important difference
By fixing the culture, we do not fix the organization. We simply put it on a strong “growth ground.” You then have to get the results. There are companies that have the ability to get themost out of their teams. Others do not even think about it.
The consulting firm Gallup uses a very interesting tool that consists of 12 questions that systematically make the members of an organization. Here are the details of the 12 questions:
What if there was a question that would correlate with the company’s results? What could it be? All answers are very good, but there is one in particular that makes the difference:
To what extent do you have the opportunity to do what is best for your job?
It turns out that all companies that yield a positive result in question Q03 receive better performances than the competition. Why? When people can do their best at work, everyone wins – employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders and society.
It is therefore about connecting the points between purpose, people, process, environment and results. Organizations with leaders capable of doing that make the difference.
Now let me ask: Which side is yours on?