Culture Refresh: Ping Pong Table Not Required

By Andrew Jennings, CCO

culture refreshWe are very lucky in the work we get to do with our customers, constantly helping them achieve extraordinary results and build companies with long reaching impact for their customers and employees. Whether it be building High Performing Teams, greater depth of Leadership or Strategic Planning, one thing remains constant: it’s the culture of the organization that has the largest impact on its success. If things are feeling stale in your organization, it may be time for a culture refresh.

Recently, it became clearly evident that culture needs updating and refreshing as regularly as strategy to keep an organization competitive. This is particularly true when hiring new talent (think Millennials) or retaining ‘A’ players.

This is not about having beer in the fridge at all times, or supplying ping pong tables and free lunches. Culture goes much deeper than that. Certainly a nice office space with plenty of natural light and a sense of fun can help, but these are the result of carefully crafted corporate cultures. They are not enough on their own. 

An organization needs to update and refresh its culture as regularly as its strategy, to stay competitive. Click To Tweet

Done a Culture Refresh, Lately?

When was the last time your organization refreshed its culture? If you are like the majority of companies, it was at least a long time ago.  Maybe not since the company was founded? Or perhaps the culture was never purposefully developed in the first place―it just took on a life of its own!

If the well-known business guru Peter Drucker is to be believed, culture will eat your strategy for breakfast! Now, not having a strategy is likely to result in no ingredients for your breakfast. However, we all know about the importance of strategy and often build a plan every year. (BTW, if you don’t, now would be a good time to start.)

So what about your culture? How would you define it today? Does it fit with the strategic direction you have carefully planned for? If you have not paid focused attention on building your culture, now would be a great time to start―before your carefully planned strategy fails.

But where to start with a culture refresh? This is a question we are often asked, and understandably so, as culture feels like such a big indefinable quantity. Fortunately, it is not as complicated as you might first think. However, it does take focused and continued effort to deliver extraordinary business results. The first step to any great culture is values.

What are Values?

“Important and enduring beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or desirable and what is not. Values exert major influence on the behavior of an individual and serve as broad guidelines in all situations.”

Values are powerful as they guide decision making in the absence of a specific rule and also identify specific behaviors for all members of the organization. They are not soft, and they are used to hire, evaluate, and if necessary, let individuals go.

When we work with customers on creating their values, we split them into three distinct buckets:

  1. Core Values: Those Values and behaviors that are unique to the organization.
  2. Aspirational Values: Those values and behaviors the organization would like to have as core, but are not quite there yet.
  3. Permission to Play: Those values that are a rite of passage to be in business e.g. Honesty, Integrity etc.

Of course, for values to be integrated into a company’s culture they have to go way beyond simple slogans posted on a reception wall. Once the values are identified, we work with our customers to develop a clearly defined set of behaviors that support each value. By identifying behaviors, expectations become much clearer for everyone. This creates the ability to reward people for behaving in a way that supports the organizations’ values and ultimately, culture.

Fearless Leaders recognize that values are the starting point to building a high performing culture built on ritual and lore. The culture is supported by artifacts that reward the best of behaviors.

When is a good time to do a culture refresh? Well, now is as a good a time as any! Given how impactful it is on business results, integrating a refresh into your next strategic planning session might just give you the edge you have been looking for.