By Laura Huckabee-Jennings, CEO
When an organization reaches a tipping point of growth, most leaders wonder how to scale the culture they have built as they add additional people, and possibly layers of management or new locations or functions. The established culture may break or change as new people, structure and process are added to the mix and new norms and expectations emerge. Most cultures are a somewhat accidental combination of the values of the individuals who work there. Stronger organizations build a conscious culture based on clearly articulated values, translated into behaviors.
My first day on the job at Procter & Gamble (P&G), I received a glossary, a training schedule and a set of initial meetings I was expected to have. There was a company store and fixed calendar of meetings and definitions of what each was to cover. There was a clear annual plan, monthly business tracking, annual strategic meetings, key issues meetings, and a format for summarizing meetings, research, and business trips. It was very structured. By the time I had been there six months, it became the only way to do things.A conscious culture is based on clearly articulated values that are translated into behaviors. Click To Tweet
Any culture is built on fundamental structures that support the culture and indoctrinate new members quickly―rituals, artifacts and lore. Rituals at P&G included training in the first six months for every employee that would include Time Management, Effective Meetings and Effective Writing―where we all learned how to structure and write the compulsory “one page memo.” Artifacts included badges, P&G glossaries, and the pilot cases the travelers in our group used to cart all our papers around the world. Our lore included stories we used as cases in training, stories from the CEO in his annual video address to the entire employee base, and the stories we told about good (and bad!) behavior from trips to our markets around the world.
The culture at P&G was one of rigorous data-based decision making, ruthless efficiency with our time and resources, and goal-orientation to a fault. It was also a family, and a business that performed year after year. We recruited for analytical thinkers, we rewarded data analysis that led to efficiency and goal achievement. There are alumni groups that are bonded by that common experience and now give back, do research, and network. How do you build a conscious culture in your organization? Here are three steps:
Conscious Culture has clearly defined values.
1. Identify Your Core Values. As a Fearless Leader in your organization, what values do you see being honored in your recruiting, rewards and rituals? What “hero stories” do you tell about people or groups at your company who went above and beyond? In particular, how does your most senior leadership behave?
Conscious Culture is supported with rituals, artifacts and lore.
2. Build or Reinforce Rituals, Artifacts and Lore. What do your meetings and other habits say about your organization? How could they better exemplify your core values? How can you recruit and reward for your core values? What stories do you want to tell about how your values are lived in your organization? Start small and look for daily or weekly actions rather than annual events. A daily huddle, a weekly recognition of a “values champion” of the week, or morning coffee with the leader can become a ritual that shows you really mean it when you talk about core values.
Conscious Culture becomes natural behavior.
3. Walk the Talk. Pay particular attention to your own behavior. Others in your organization will notice how you spend your time, how you make decisions, who you listen to, and they will understand your true core values from how you act, not what you say. Leaders show the way―if you aren’t using the values to guide your own actions, no one else will. Fearless Leaders build Fearless Culture.
Culture is an often-overlooked strategic advantage in streamlining your operations. It creates a common language, a set of shared expectations, and when done well shortcuts much of the politics and silo-building in an organization. If you want to grow and maintain your culture, you need to build a conscious culture and create the structure that keeps it going when the players change and when you can’t be there.
What core values can you translate into action today?