We have heard of the famous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We understand culture is the way the collective leadership of an organisation thinks, acts and interacts with the stakeholders. What about the growth dimension – does culture aid in boosting growth?
Are they related?
On the face of it, growth and culture are two different things. Culture refers to the most commonly held beliefs and values that form the foundation for leaders to take decisions, resolve conflicts and plan for the future. Growth refers to an increase in revenues, profits, goodwill and brand of an organisation. Growth is an outcome of several wheels in motion. So one wonders how these two aspects relate to each other. We have to peel a few layers off the onion to see the linkage at the core.
Getting the right resources on board, enabling them to deliver results, and developing and retaining them is essential to achieve the growth outcomes that a firm desires. The real difference between a company that delivers high growth and another that delivers low to moderate growth is about the choices they make and the way those choices are executed. Leaders make these choices guided by their core beliefs and values. Hence, the culture elements are deeply connected to the outcomes of a growth journey undertaken by a company.
How good is the culture of my organisation?
Every leader wants to know how the organisation’s culture is being perceived by its employees, partners, customers and all other communities of stakeholders. This is an easy question to ask but hard to gather reliable data unless specific efforts are undertaken in this direction. Organisations demonstrate a wide range of behaviours across geographies, lines of business, levels and functions. When the dispersion is within a narrow range, the behaviours and interactions of the organisation with its stakeholders remain consistent and the company is considered a reliable and respected brand.
Leaders have to invest their energies to connect with stakeholders across the board, listen to them and take actions in consonance with their values. They have to put in efforts such as carrying out surveys, holding focus group discussions and benchmarking their results vis-à-vis their peer group companies and any other relevant firm outside their cohort. The experience of customers, employees, business partners and society at large determines the goodwill the company enjoys and its sustainability.
A firm aspiring to grow must permeate the growth mindset across all levels in the company; the do’s and don’ts must be clearly understood.
How can I leverage culture on my growth journey?
We have to continuously keep a track of the gaps and variances from the desired behaviours. We have to close the gaps on an ongoing basis and showcase those as examples across the company so that the knowledge and the practice are broad-based. Our values, beliefs and culture get tested in difficult situations, for example, winning a large deal from a customer whose demands appear unrealistic. The dilemma is if we should confront the practicality of the demands before signing the deal or handle it after bagging the assignment. Sometimes, a few rules are to be bent to make way for winning a large deal. Do you go for the kill or stick to your stated policies?
Similarly, there are situations where customers raise a complaint and our team believes that the demands are unreasonable. Do we state the facts or drag the issue for some time with the hope that the demands will die down over time? A high performer in the team has erred on the wrong side of the code of ethics. Does one terminate the person or make an exception by giving the person another chance by issuing a warning letter? These situations need experienced hands to deal with and the involvement of senior people to lead the solution. Their behaviours are keenly watched and turn into the culture playbook. These behaviours determine if the company can navigate the curves well without causing any damage to any and will keep doing the same in the future.