Strategy and planning are a big part of business. Defining and declaring a clear vision for a company is a big step, but not the only big step in business success. Management retreats are a common venue for great minds to gather together to think and strategize about their company’s future. At the end of the retreat, strategies, objectives and goals have been set. In an ideal world, the executives go back to the day-to-day, energized by the plan they have created and expecting that the troops are going to buy in, fall in line and implement so that success will prevail. In the real world, habits die hard. Old mindsets, practices, policies and procedures still exist. They undermine and derail and, if not continually taken into consideration, will just plain suck the life out of any hopes for the new strategies being successful. How can we avoid this?
Let’s return to the retreat and allow for time to actually conduct a force field analysis. What’s that you ask? It’s an exercise to identify those forces that pull you closer to success and those that actually pull you closer and closer to disaster? This valuable exercise identifies the path to success and the forces that are obstacles standing in the way.
Good or bad, right or wrong, are you willing to find those forces that alter your company’s destiny?
Every company wants to put its best foot forward, be it in the public eye, or in individual sales situations. Talk is around the strengths, the unique features, all of the things that make the company great. As we know, there is a fine line between extolling existing virtues and puffery. Puffery sometimes isn’t bad. But extreme puffery moves toward bluster and that evolves into hubris. Often times, this change is so subtle that there is very little awareness of the damage.
Hubris is dangerous. Selling on hubris is detrimental in many ways. Picture a small business that lands a big sale or big account based on the CEO overselling both product and service capabilities. The great news is they got the contract- the bad news is they got the contract and have no way to deliver on it. Suppose the company drops all other work in process to service this one piece of business that can move the company into the big leagues. What does that do to existing customer relationships? What does it do to the culture of the company when everyone is forced to drop what they are doing and focus- in a very rushed, maybe frantic manner- on something they haven’t done before. They may not have the necessary experience or expertise, which means creating a solution that is not proven, or spending a huge amount of time on research to build a solution. Or it may mean that the company has to bring on more people quickly to service the account, without properly vetting them and integrating them into the culture.
Be careful of bluster. It is only a step away from the cliff. As you slip over the cliff, you may be reconsidering whether it was worth it, but by then it is too late.
Organizational culture is a hot topic- finally. Numerous books, scholarly papers and blogs and articles are being written about it regularly. Down in the trenches of businesses large and small, it is addressed much less often. So it is interesting to observe and see how and where the culture really “sits” in an organization.
Ideally, it would permeate every nook and cranny and be a part of every employee’s DNA. It would guide decisions, actions, tactics and strategy. In actuality, that is usually not the case. Sometimes it is the leaders who lead the culture by words, example and by holding others accountable to it. And other times, the leaders seem to be AWOL on the subject. In those instances the company can lose its way, or it can be kept on its path by others picking up the flag and running with it. Culture champions influence those around them to remember why they joined the company, why they were once passionate about it, and how they can still make it great, even in a cultural leadership vacuum. Instead of complaining about the bosses, they are taking matters into their own hands and setting examples of how to align values and behaviors.
Stories of the machine operator or accounting clerk; or the nurse or a mid-level manager helping to get the train back on the tracks are not just isolated anecdotes. Individuals can lead a few followers and turn them into a movement, which from the bottom up, get the culture to where it needs to be. Don’t jump ship if the company’s executives have culture amnesia. You can be the big dog and get the culture wagging again.
Integrity starts at the top. And “do as I say, not as I do” does not cut it. Employees watch the boss and the behavior she exhibits. If she does something that is not in line with the organizational definition of integrity, guess what will happen. Some will say, “if she can do that, then why can’t I?” and then they will exhibit behaviors like that, slowly eroding the culture. Others may decide they do not want to work for a company where a leader exhibits such behavior and they will leave, or worse, they will stay and be disenchanted and become less and less engaged. They will turn a blind eye when others act inappropriately, and again, things will fall apart.
Integrity counts. And not just when someone is watching. Integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is watching and nobody will find out. It’s speaking up when everyone else is silent. Not every company claims integrity as a core value, because in many cases it just goes without saying. But, it is a necessity for every corporate culture to maintain unity, employee engagement, collaboration and a sense of organizational pride. Integrity is critical to every brand. Nobody wants to do business with a company known to fudge their results or to take shortcuts in building or developing their products and delivering their services.
Unfortunately, integrity is far from universal in our world. We read about bribes, kickbacks, food product and drug recalls, autos being sold knowingly with defective parts. Who wants to be in a headline for one of those reasons? Who wants to live with themselves having done that? Integrity starts at the top and should be part of every employee. Yes, folks will still have to go to confession for things they do in their personal lives, but there should be no reason to confess for breaches of integrity at work. Integrity does matter to a company. Does it matter to yours?
Healthcare expenses seem like they are going through the roof every year. Employers are constantly on the lookout outside their organization for cheaper health coverage and may also end up reducing the amount of premium that they pay, making the employees responsible for more. Employees feel the weight of their higher financial responsibility which adds additional stress to an already stressed workforce.
A deep look internally could show employers that they are responsible for much of the cost. Their cultural practices, their efforts to do more with less puts employees into a less healthful state. As the use of medical benefits rises, so do premiums. Benefit use rises because stress comes out in many physical manifestations and makes many existing conditions worse. The workplace is the single largest source of stress today.
Is your company responsible for the increase in the very healthcare costs you are trying to reduce? Are you sabotaging yourself by not paying attention to the right things?