As the idea of a “company culture” evolves, we are starting to define it based on the behaviors of workers. Previously, trendy companies came up with catchy mission statements that were meant to capture the meaning of their existence. Just ask a baby boomer. They will tell you “company culture” is something puppet-mastered by the CEO of the company and most of the workers don’t buy into it. But now, “company culture” connotes something deeper. It is a reflection of the purpose, values, behaviors, and strategies of an entire organization.
In The Culture Engine, S. Chris Edmonds suggests that leadership creates a standing constitution defining each of these elements in relation to the company’s trajectory. Everyone is expected to follow it as the law of the company.[i] And this is only the beginning, in the near future, we dig much, much deeper. Everything we do will be measured. As we work, our micro-behaviors – eye movements, twitches, etc. – are monitored by productivity technologies (some of which already exist).[ii] Leaders will have access to our inner-most emotions. Personally, I think these futuristic applications are excessive (but then again, perhaps I am like a baby-boomer making sense of where we are now).
I created a constitution according to Edmonds’ suggested approach. I found it to be worthwhile. There are some generalities. For example, I bet most companies value teamwork and describe some similar behavior expectations. Another example, all technology companies value innovativeness. But it really comes down to defining the behaviors; this involves addressing subtleties and working through the fine-print definitions with an inner circle. Once the constitution is ready, the benefit comes in getting an entire company living and breathing every word of it. Throughout the book, Edmonds provides ample evidence adopting a company culture pays off. Here is one stat:
His clients have experienced a ’35-40 percent engagement gains in 12 to 18 months’ (page 30). (Higher engagement increases creativity and productivity.)
Gregg Lederman is an expert on organizational branding. Love the story about how he rebranded an iconic ice cream parlor in Rochester. Buckman’s was seemingly on its last legs when Gregg and his partner took it over. They decided to take control of their customers’ experience: “Think summer, baseball, dirt, grass, ice cream!” Their plan involved breaking things down into behaviors and expectations (similar to a constitution):
We made the company mindset meaningful to employees by translating it into fifteen nonnegotiable behaviors that every employee could and should do.[iii]
Altogether, getting a company to adopt a culture based on behaviors and expectations is a strong step forward. It is something most companies did not think of twenty years ago. You cannot control your workers’ attitudes and perceptions, but you can control how they behave (point made by Edmonds). Moreover, new technologies are making all of these desired workers’ behaviors measurable and accessible to management. For example, every sales pitch a person makes can be caught on video, phone records, and online communications and then be dissected by someone in management. In the future, it will be interesting to see how “micro-analysis” of behaviors impacts the relationship between workers and their leaders. No one likes to be micro-managed, yet it is worth getting a company culture right. Edmonds makes clear that once the constitution is ratified, those who do not follow it should be asked to leave the company!
My tidbit… Regarding company culture, everyone should have similar internal and external behaviors. In other words, practice what you preach to customers. Workers should use the services your company offers and practice the underlying methodologies.
[i] S. Chris Edmonds. The Culture Engine. (Wiley, 2014).