Old Sayings Still Run True: Culture Trumps Strategy Every Time
Though it’s been almost two years since the pioneer at Google, Laszlo Bock, stepped down from his role, the impact he had on company culture remains- and if anything, it’s only strengthened since then. Michael Zimmerman, Employee Relations Director at OFS Healthcare, is a big proponent of culture himself with one perspective in particular that companies need to consider, “I always hear people talking about ‘creating their culture’ but the fact is that you ALWAYS have culture. If you’ve been in business over a week then you are already establishing your culture- it’s what kind of culture you wish to have that is directly impacted by the senior leadership teams who can either add or detract from it.”
With this in mind you may be wondering what are some of the most effective ways for shifting culture from one side of the scale to the other before it’s too late. Here’s how to get started:
Zimmerman suggests that there are tactical ways to creating the culture your company is looking for- and it starts with a top-down approach, “you can choose what type of culture you want your business to embody. Traditional? Progressive? Family-Friendly? No matter what it is, if you implement practices to support it, then it will happen. If you’re looking for family-friendly then celebrate the milestones and anniversaries at the office, send out birthday cards- do the things that embrace that culture.”
While the effectiveness of surveys will be debated until the end of time, it’s what we do with the results afterwards that Zimmerman is interested in, “if you ask me to do a survey then I expect to see positive results or a change come from it- otherwise you’ve likely spent thousands of dollars for nothing.”
Instead, he recommends simply opening the lines of communication to find out the answers you need, “I’m not knocking surveys or data collection- they have their places in business- but I think a lot of companies don’t take advantage of good, old fashioned communication like they should.”
During the initial stages of nurturing a growing culture there’s likely to be hurdles along the way and personnel decisions to make. With that being said, a cohesive culture is ultimately an effective culture. “You can’t have one area conflicting with another- you need a comprehensive, integrated system so that every element is aligned. It’s a team effort to have everyone on the same page and it’s necessary for success.”
While creating culture starts at the top, it’s through every person’s actions that it continues to either thrive or die. Empowering employees with tasks both big and small eventually strengthens their ownership over the success of the company. “I’ve seen what a well-designed employee involvement initiative can do when implemented correctly. If you want real success, take the data you’ve collected and the values you’ve formed and produce action plans that push responsibility down to the lowest levels of your workforce. Show them that they have influence and you will see results.”
At the end of the day, what was true then still holds true today: “culture trumps strategy every time.” Whether or not your culture succeeds or not is up to you- with the time and effort you’re willing to invest in bringing your vision and values to fruition.
Kevin Bugielski is the Marketing Manager for Victory Lap, a purpose-driven startup changing the sales game. Avid Snapchatter, SoulCycle lover, newfound runner, but ultimately, a foodie.