The Organizational Culture Attributes Required for Performance Gain

You’ve probably seen a study, paid for a consultant or will see at least a dozen articles this month that talk about your company culture. You likely acknowledge that it impacts your long-term financial performance in some way.

But synthesizing insights into culture against things you likely care the most about today — performance, profitability, production, asset protection or predictability — is something many people write about but few can actually do.

(Hint: It’s not going to be solved with another workshop, a retreat or a “company values” exercise that gets put on a plaque in the lunchroom and forgotten about.)

Consultants talk culture and write culture. Few can translate cultural insights into tangible gains in performance, profitability, production, asset protection or predictability.

Our model has proven that addressing performance issues by accounting for how organizational culture intersects with individual intention, individual behaviors and operational systems will result in things like more profit, fewer accidents or improved productivity.

Based on decades of observed outcomes in the petrochemicals, oil/gas, pulp/paper, construction, manufacturing, transportation/logistics, private equity, and metals/mining industries, these are the “table stakes” necessary to creating a culture capable of making dramatic shifts that impact performance:

The Right Values

In an organizational culture of high performance, strong values create a road map for acceptable behaviors — which in turn parlays into operational impact.

In our experience, high-performance cultures consistently share the following values: coaching, employee recognition and high team utilization.*

When identifying your top five values, think about their impact on changing behavior and the future of your company. Transforming your organization to adopt these values is a process that requires a change management approach. Without it, a cultural shift will be impossible to make and you’ll be saddled with the same results you got lost year. Ironically, one of these challenges can be the values themselves…

Barriers to Performance Cultures: Have You Built Any of These?

Four primary values limit the creation of a high-performance culture:

  1. Organizational control: Hierarchical structure where power and influence coupled with fear dilute workforce spirit, innovation and creativity
  2. Organizational opacity: Lack of clarity drains employees’ energy, supporting flavor-of-the-month projects and making it difficult to rally around a compelling vision
  3. Coercive self-intent: A “me versus we” mentality, promoting unhealthy competition and self-defeating behaviors
  4. Communication silos: The flow of new ideas isn’t shared across the organization, hurting productivity and innovation

Your Framework for Understanding Large-Scale Change and Culture shifts

Any large-scale change will challenge the established culture of an organization. Transformational leaders must be proactive in addressing the impact projected change that your plan will have on organizational values, beliefs and norms.

Whether the project is reengineering, restructuring, process optimization or a shift in safety and performance, culture must be considered. (See Fig. 1 below)

Figure 1. Cultural dimensions must be wrapped around the entire transformation process

Although culture change is not a linear process with clear beginning and end points, it can be illustrated at a high level as a process. Before embarking on a unique culture change journey in your organization, it’s important to build a framework (see Figure 2 below for an excellent example).

Figure 2. Culture Change Methodology

Additionally, consider these three points as you begin to lay out a plan:

1. Culture change is a holistic process

  • Sustainable culture change won’t result from simply creating a new training program.
  • Culture change requires a significant investment of time and resources across the whole of the organization.

2. Identify internal and external change drivers

  • As you review your strategic vision, consider how the culture must change to support current and future initiatives.
  • Organizations generally change when under stress, when there’s a desire to refocus the business, or when there’s a plateau in growth.
  • In responding to these drivers, bear in mind culture must be restructured to respond to the changes, how that will affect future initiatives, and how to promote the cultural shift.

3. Quantify the benefits of culture change (and the costs of maintaining status quo)

  • Secure commitment by developing a detailed business case in support of change.
  • Identify and promote not only the benefits of change, but the projected costs of remaining static.
  • Accomplish this is by conducting a culture change/organizational excellence survey at the start of the process.

A Final Word on Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is inextricably linked to success (or failure). Committed leaders with the right resources can shape strong, sustainable cultures that positively impact stakeholder value, employee engagement and financial performance — a “triple bottom line.”

How do you and your fellow leaders see or approach cultural issues in the context of performance? We love learning. Leave a comment or reach out for a conversation and an in-depth exchange of new ideas.

* Many additional values can work to shape a culture, including but not limited to:

  • Compassion
  • Compelling vision
  • Ethics
  • Excellence
  • Achievement
  • Commitment
  • Recognition
  • Quality
  • Cost leadership
  • Making a difference
  • Recognition
  • Accountability
  • Coaching
  • Teamwork
  • Customer intimacy
  • Flawless execution
  • Process-driven outcomes
  • Mutual learning
  • Positive regard
  • Positive attitude
  • Flexibility
  • Profitability
  • Growth
  • Belonging
  • Relationships
  • Productivity
  • Creativity
  • Shared communications
  • Alignment
  • Being the best
  • Cooperative