Monday, April 14, 2008

Culture Clash

Recently, I read a shocking piece of business news in the Boston Globe.

An article reported 81% of executives surveyed believe their people work in isolation from the rest of the company because of negative manager attitudes that cause friction between departments.

Why is this a surprise? Anyone who has worked in a large cross-functional organization knows this is the way it is today.

The American Management Association, who sponsored the study, went on to report that:

  • 59% blamed their corporate culture for preventing departments from working together
  • 50% said some units place their own priorities ahead of employees goals, resulting in friction
  • When asked what the most pressing problems they have faced because of isolations; 74% mentioned wars between managers 72% pointed to lack of cooperation, 60% said power struggles; 51% said putting unit goals ahead of company goals.

I believe this cultural clash, a direct result of senior management mistakes, causes the loss of productivity, reduces employee retention, contributes to loss of profits and efficiency, and ultimately produces poor customer experiences.

Why does this occur? Because management takes employee commitment for granted. They expect employees to act and behave in accordance with the interests of the company, but it does not work that way. In fact, according to recent Gallup survey, 80% of employees are minimally committed to their company’s goals.

So what should companies do about this epidemic problem? Here are our specific actionable solutions.

  • The senior management team must articulate the culture and behavior that is expected within the company through a process called Visioneering. It starts with personal vision that grows into a team vision and blossoms into a corporate vision, with defined action steps and deliverables. (Take a look at our site for details or give us a call)
  • Management must reinforce the behavior with personal, team and corporate accountability for their actions. Deviant behavior and lack of collaboration should never be tolerated. The credibility of the company is at risk and is more important than individuals.
  • Inward Marketing is necessary to communicate the change experientially so that employees see the message as relevant to their jobs. They need to understand what the consequences of effective cultures can achieve.
  • Recognition and Reward programs that celebrate successes. Celebrate actions that focus on customer interaction, positive experiences and wins. Do not focus on internal strife and negative cross-functional behavior.
  • Measure behavior and actions through employee research with the help of Inward’s ChangeFX. It will illustrate success and failures by different employee groupings and offer prescriptive diagnostics for improvement.
  • Segment your employee populations just like you would an external marketing campaign. Do not allow the message and the medium to be the same for everyone. People react differently and comprehend messages in their own way.
  • Plan, execute and reinforce the program in thirds. Spend a third of your time and budget on planning the strategy for your culture; a third on rolling out the communications so people understand what it means and the final third reinforcing the message for several years so that it takes hold. All too often, this final reinforcement if overlooked and results in lost spending.

What would you rather have: a company that is focused as a unified team on the customer and trying to displace the competition or dysfunctional silos of people working against each other and fighting turf wars where little ever gets done?

If your company is dealing with a culture clash, please call us. Or forward this email to others in your company who may find this information beneficial (CEO’s, HR Directors, VP’s of Strategy, VP’s of Marketing, VP’s of Communications or Branding). Help us spread the gospel. At the very least, visit our web site to view our white papers and case histories on these topics.

As always, we would appreciate any referrals. If you know of other organizations or associations who could benefit from our approach in marketing/branding, change management, HR communications, team alignment and market research please pass our name to them. We promise to provide the very best service and support.

Spring is in the air!