CharacterScope CEO, Mark Loftus recently held a session with a group of entrepreneurs and founders at Birmingham’s Barclays Eagle Labs on the importance of organisational culture.
The article below highlights some of the key things they discussed as well as some practical advice to make sure that culture doesn’t become something that holds your business back.
“We are on a new path forward with the hiring of our Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi in September 2017 following many challenges regarding our culture, workplace practices, and reputation.”
In a sign of how far attitudes have changed to the importance of culture within an organisation, Uber’s IPO prospectus made a point of addressing it both in terms of historic risk and future opportunity. No longer is culture seen as something ethereal, an almost invisible measure relating to whether people enjoy being in the office. Instead, it’s becoming something tangible, that has a real impact on the fortunes, valuation and growth of a company.
Peter Drucker famously once said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and while businesses may consider that this means culture supersedes strategy, it doesn’t. It just means that the best strategy in the world could be undone by the disconnect between your working culture and the rest of the business.
The fact that the value of proactive culture building is often treated with suspicion by startup and business founders suggests that they have yet to understand the importance of it and how it can impact their bottom line. Because culture is generally invisible, it’s hard to measure by traditional means. Indeed, it’s generally only noticeable when walking into an office, in their reception, and with whatever slogans they choose to adorn their walls.
But culture runs far deeper than this. Consider that culture, in essence, reflects the character and ethics of a business’s founders or management team. This can mean in the earliest days it is the result of habitual behaviour and beliefs of just one individual. And if it’s habitual, deeply embedded in an organisation, it will come out and influence all situations. Whether thats is in approaches to work, clients, employee management or business planning.
So what can founders do about culture? Shape it!
It’s all well and good recognising that the culture of your company might be wrong or might need a shape up. But it’s even better if you can actually make the change. Instigating something that could change your company for the better could lead to a business impact beyond improving the atmosphere in the office and have a direct impact on your bottom line
It’s important to make the invisible, visible and the unconscious, conscious. And more often than not, culture, especially in fast growth start-ups, reflects the character of an individual. So if your founder is hugely optimistic, you’re going to see that across the business.
As a business scales, it is important culture is something that is proactively designed and implemented, led by a set of beliefs and ethics that will shape the way the business operates. And while founders will influence culture, the change and impact needs to be driven by those who are directly affected.
Gone are the days of a top-down change, for example, a move to an open plan office.To create lasting and tangible impact, a business needs to change from within, with all employees engaged on the journey, creating together a shared culture of learning and development.