Competing Through People  |  April 2012  Edition
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MAC 2011

Culture Matters


I had asked a COO of a multi-unit organization about his company's culture change initiative and how he defined culture.  He said that he thought it was a kind of "warmth" that you could feel when you visited each unit.  Some units had it, others didn't.   I wasn't sure how to respond to this other than to bite my lip to keep from chuckling.


Our understanding of Culture has evolved dramatically over the years.  What was once thought of as a fuzzy, idiosyncratic,  ethereal concept (like warmth) now has a solid research foundation.  Culture can be reliably measured and has been shown to be an effective leading indicator of business results.


As far as a definition of culture, I like my colleague Lou Musante's of Echo Strategies - its how people in an organization behave.  Culture is observable behavior that can be measured and those behaviors are what drive results. 
Stephen Sadove, Chairman and Chief Executive of Saks, said this about culture in a 2010 New York Times interview: "  I have a very simple model to run a company.  It starts with leadership at the top, which drives a culture.  Culture drives innovation and whatever else you're trying to drive within a company - innovation, execution, whatever it's going to be.  And that then drives results."  Right on!


Culture is not the sole determinant of organization performance.  But measuring and continuously improving culture should be a primary management practice of any organization interested in success.  Culture matters.

Coming Attractions

I just completed two enjoyable speaking engagements, one with the Human Resource Professionals of Central PA, the other with the Western Pa Human Resource Association.  There are a few more events on my calendar that I thought I'd pass along.  I hope to see you during my travels.


May 3TriState HRMA Annual Conference, Mt. Laurel NJ.  I am facilitating a workshop entitled: Getting a Better Picture of Your Talent:  Building a Strategy-Capable Organization


May 16 - Keynote address at the Butler HR Associations Annual Conference


May 30 Workshop presented at Pittsburgh HR Association event: HR in the Boardroom:  A Practical Training for the CEO and the HR Executive 


Putting Change Management into Perspective
Does this scenario sound familiar? 
An ERP implementation is failing miserably.  Product can't be tracked.  Customers can't be invoiced.  Everyone is blaming everyone else.  A third party is called in to idnetify the cause of this disaster.  Their conclusion:  The organization was not ready for this change and change management was not considered in the project scope.
My guess is that this scenario, or one like it, is all too familiar.  Research shows that many projects, large and small, fail not because of the technology but because the change required was not assessed, planned for, resourced and implemented.  (The best reading on this is Why Transformation Efforts Fail by John Kotter.)
Change management is not complex.  I've found that most business teams  can envision why a project or initiative might fail and can identify ways to keep that from happening.  They just need to make sure that they take this step and build change into the planning and resourcing of the initiative. 
Beyond specific change planning, there are three other factors that are critical to successful change:
  • The business case must be clear.  The case must be built for why the change is needed, what change is expected and what's in it for the organization to change.  The case should be built from the outside (markets and customers) in.
  • The change structure must be defined.  Who is the business owner, the project leader, and key project members?  Who are all the stakeholders that will be affected by the change?  A Communication Plan should be developed to connect all the players throughout the change initiative.
  • The organization needs to be change-capable.  The roles critical to the change must have the right people (with change related competencies).  This can be assessed in advance.  If there is a capability gap, it must be addressed before the change begins.  The people in the change-critical roles must be identified and involved in the initiative.
In This Edition
Culture Matters
Coming Attractions
Putting Change Management into Perspective
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