REVITALIZE YOUR COMPANY'S CULTURE

Revitalizing your company’s culture requires the same degree of attention as you would give to any major initiative. First and foremost it means developing in your staff an attitude of “united in purpose” (as described above for Netflix) and fostering “harmonious human relationships.” Disregarding that suggestion, especially in today’s hotly contested markets, can prove problematic. That is, even if you devise a brilliant strategy, attempting to implement change with any measure of success without initially sorting through the core values, beliefs, and traditions that mold your organization can affect the outcome.

Once you have taken steps to unify your group in support of the business plan, you can use the following guidelines as part of the process to revitalize the corporate culture and align it with your strategies:

  • • Stay on the offensive.
  • • Facilitate boldness, depending, of course, on the availability of resources and the level of confidence you show in employees, as well as the confidence they show in you. If the risk succeeds, offer ample rewards; if failure results, avoid damaging repercussions.
  • • Encourage creativity and innovation.
  • • Seek maximum input from employees at all levels of the organization. Try new ideas that could lead to new products, evolving markets, or new business. Maintain a cultural sensibility that retains an open mind and avoids the idea-killing attitude that we’ve tried that.
  • • Allow sufficient time for ideas to incubate and hatch into new technologies, products, and services. Develop concrete formats for employees to submit ideas. The case of General Electric, described above, that required executives to submit three Breakthrough Imagination proposals each year is a good example.
  • • Learn to live in a flexible competitive environment. This is a cultural attribute that is often difficult to embed within an organization, and equally difficult to instill in employees. It also needs senior management’s full support, especially during this period of severe market volatility.
  • • Maintain an outward display of resolute calmness and unshakable confidence. For some employees, extreme change creates an unsettling situation where any perceived upheaval in conditions in or out of the organization is difficult to endure. Still, flexibility is a singular characteristic that must be maintained. As such, it is an imperative for operating successfully in the Internet Age.
  • • Act as an aggressive competitor. This combative mind-set helps you discover where your firm has a comparative advantage and where it is at risk. It indicates strengths and weaknesses in your products, services, logistics, and overall organizational structure. You also gain insight by examining relationships with suppliers, intermediaries, and customers along the entire supply-chain. The process exposes strong points and vulnerable areas in technology, manufacturing, human resources, and capital resources, and it surveys any other area that might endanger your firm to competitive attacks or prevent you from taking advantage of ripe opportunities. As important, it unmasks sensitive information on employee behavior and suggests clues on how to undertake change. Such exposure also sheds light on those senior executives who cannot (or choose not to) make determined efforts to take on an aggressive posture. In practical terms, few executives are effective for all seasons. And not all individuals are capable of performing optimally through successive stages of a corporate cycle—start-up, growth, maturity, and decline—or even within different cultural environments.

The natural goal of all campaign plans therefore is the turning point at which the attack becomes defense. If one were to go beyond that point, it would not only be a useless effort which could not add to success. It would in fact be a damaging one.

What matters, therefore, is to detect the culminating point with discriminative judgment.

Clausewitz

  • • Build a solid market position. The aim is to create a unique market position from which competitors cannot easily dislodge you. To the extent you are able, try to create brand equity and brand recognition. Your managerial efforts should be directed toward mounting a long-term positive image for your firm. Research has indicated that high market share equals high return on investment. Some executives go so far as to advise continuing to maximize market share at any cost. This viewpoint, however, remains controversial among some executives and academic scholars. Clausewitz’s point of view is, “going beyond the turning point ... could not add to success” and “what matters is to detect the culminating point with discriminative judgment.” Others believe that chasing market share no longer guarantees profitability. One point that is not controversial is that customer satisfaction and long-term customer relationships remain the enduring principles.
  • • Stay close to evolving technology. Tune in to what is happening in those technologies that can help transform your business to the new economy models. (Look again at the Cisco case.) Several choices exist: buying a technology, investing in start-ups, or partnering with a compatible company.

You can employ all or some of these steps to drive cultural change and energize your company. How drastic those changes are depends on the severity of your company’s problems. Therefore, you can react to problems as they arise or you can be proactive by anticipating changes. It is all part of leadership and managerial competence, which relies heavily on estimating your internal and external environments, including competitors, suppliers and, most of all, your customers.

In addition to the above criteria, Table 5.4 further defines the components and resulting benefits that energize a healthy corporate culture.

TABLE 5.4

Energizing a Healthy Corporate Culture

Attributes

Benefits

Diversity

A company’s strength comes from its diversity, where respect prevails for different backgrounds—as long as they do not conflict with the core values of the organization.

Fair treatment of employees

Employees support company efforts as long as equality exists—and where rewards and disapprovals are applied consistently.

Pride and enthusiasm

Employee zeal spills over to business partners and customers.

Equal opportunity for employees

A heightened spirit of innovation helps employees achieve their full potential, leads to team cohesiveness, elevates morale, and encourages innovation.

Open communication

Provides a channel to pass on beliefs, values, and unite personnel toward a vision for the future of the organization.

Respect for employee contributions

Enhances involvement and enthusiasm to work toward common goals and strategies.

In war the result is never final.

Never assume that ... its whole existence, hangs on the outcome of a single battle, no matter how decisive. Even after a defeat, there is always the possibility that a turn of fortune can be brought about by developing new sources of internal strength.

Clausewitz

 
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