Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

VIDEO BLOG:

Culture is a blend of attitude, beliefs, mission, philosophy and momentum. As a result, culture helps to create and sustain a successful brand. The way people interact with one another and the overall growth of your company is affected by culture. What creates organizational culture? Culture is key in an organization for long-term success. It is the most important thing in an organization and it applies at all levels, from the top of the organization all the way down.  Rules, regulations, and operating standards are important, of course, because you have to have systems in place to guide activities. But culture is the factor that stands above all others.

The factors that go into building the organizational culture and will make your company successful are…

  1. TRADITIONS AND CORE VALUES
  2. VISION
  3. ENGAGEMENT

Please watch my video to learn more about these factors and share your comments below.

Five Tips for Traveling Abroad on Business

My lovely wife Beth and I immersing ourselves in the local culture while visiting Vietnam last summer.

I’m extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel extensively for both business and pleasure. Over the years, I’ve accumulated numerous tips to help aid overseas business travel.

What many businesspeople fail to realize about business work abroad is that is comes with a unique set of challenges. While business travel in your home country requires a certain level of planning and organization, international travel is a whole other ballpark.

No matter where you are going for business, your itinerary is your best friend. This is even more the case in a foreign country. You will undoubtedly want to spend some time visiting landmarks and taking in the culture of the area. By planning your trip in advance and scheduling in time to complete all of the work you need to do, you can fit in time to relax, see the sights, and enjoy yourself.

What kinds of customs do people in other cultures have that you could easily offend? For example, in many cultures, Japanese and Indian included, it is customary to spend a lot of time reading someone’s business card when they hand it to you – just taking it and slipping it in your pocket immediately is inappropriate.

In the same vein, be very conscious of your body language. Things that you do all the time may have completely different connotations in other cultures. Even handshakes might mean something different in other cultures, as for some it is customary to bow instead.

Learn a few key phrases in the native language of the country if you aren’t already fluent, as well. Business associates will appreciate any honest attempt you make at communicating with them in their native language.

While a little more obvious, check into your paperwork a few months in advance to when you leave. Some countries won’t accept your passport if it is nearing expiration, for example. Do you need a visa for your trip? These are things that you won’t want to leave to the last minute, as they will surely provide unneeded (or wanted) stress.

What are your top tips for traveling abroad for business? Let me know in the comments below!

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

Strategy is often talked about in business schools, in fact it’s a primary focus.  Culture however, is less understood.  Culture involves a variety of contributing factors including a blend of attitudes, beliefs, mission, philosophy, and momentum that help to create and sustain a successful brand.  It represents the vision, norms, symbols, beliefs, behaviors, and traditions that are taught to new members of an organization.  Organizational culture affects the way people within an organization interact with one another and the people they serve.

Culture is key in an organization for long-term success. It is the most important thing in an organization and it applies at all levels, from the top of the organization all the way down.  Rules, regulations, and operating standards are important, of course, because you have to have systems in place to guide activities. But culture is the factor that stands above all others.

There are many factors that go into building an organizational culture.  Each successful company has a different combination of factors that makes their culture successful.  Here are a few that I think are particularly important.

1. Traditions

Traditions help make a company what it is.  They tell the world who they are as an organization.  One way for an organization to maintain and develop its organizational culture and ethos is to introduce and celebrate a variety of traditions.  Disney in particular has been a master of this concept by training all new employees on the traditions of the organization.  Strong traditions that are applied throughout an organization are one of the best ways to maintain a healthy organizational culture.

2. Mission

A burning mission can give laser focus to an organization.  The mission statement needs to be short and memorable. Most importantly, it needs to be a rallying cry for people throughout the organization.  One thing I’ve learned in running a business for almost thirty years is that “ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice.”  Getting employees and clients excited about the mission is critical to organizational success.  If the average employee can’t recite your mission – it’s too long. 

3. Engagement

Collaboration encourages engagement.  Get all levels of an organization involved.  In BNI, the global referral network I founded almost 30 years ago, we have focused on getting a high level of engagement at all levels of the company.  This engagement includes a Franchise Advisory Board made up of key franchisees to address organizational challenges, a Founder’s Circle of stake holders to provide direct feedback to management about issues concerning the organization, a Board of Advisors made up exclusively of clients to ensure engagement regarding policies that effect the organization globally, an Executive Council made up of the largest seven master franchisees within the organization, as well as a number of other entities to help ensure full participation at all levels of the organization.  Engagement can be messy, but when done correctly, it encourages a collaborative culture.

4. Recognition

Many years ago, Ken Blanchard got it right in The One Minute Manager.  He said, “catch people doing something right” and recognize them publicly.  Praise in public and re-direct in private.  No truer words have ever been spoken when it comes to building a healthy organizational culture.   Recognize and celebrate successes.  As Blanchard says, if you can’t catch people doing something right – then catch them doing something ‘partially right’ and recognize that.

5. Education

Immerse and engage in a culture of learning.  The more a company can integrate ongoing learning into the organizational ethos, the more likely that company is to stay nimble and prepared for change.  Educating the organization regarding the culture of the company is particularly important to fuel and maintain a great culture.  A great strategy keeps you in the game, however, a great culture helps you win.  Especially important are the traditions and mission of the company. These things need to be part of the ongoing education of all new and existing employees.

Culture is a critical key to organizational success. It is one of the most important things in a company and it applies to all levels, from the top of the organization all the way down. The challenge with culture is that it is illusive.  The best and most scalable culture is one that is managed and maintained by the majority and not by a single policing body or by management alone.

Companies that dominate an industry for a long period of time do so because of a shared vision of organizational culture that is effectively implemented throughout the company.  That shared implementation of the vision is an important key to building a successful organizational culture.  If all the people in an organization row in the same direction in unison, that organization can dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.

Implementing a strong organizational strategy can be difficult however, implementing a healthy organizational culture is rare and in my opinion when all is said and done; culture, eats strategy for breakfast any day.

My ‘Apple’ Experience

It was a few days before Christmas and the malls were incredibly packed.  My eldest daughter needed a new Apple laptop for college and I was going to get her one as a Christmas gift.

Apple’s in-store customer service is legendary and I would soon experience it firsthand. I went to Victoria Gardens, an outdoor mall near my home in Southern California.  I walked up to the entrance of the Apple Store and the first thing I saw was that the place was wall to wall people. No, really – I’m not exaggerating – it was literally wall to wall people.  I think if there were any more people in that store the Fire Marshal would have had to empty the place.

I stood at the door and was dreading the idea of going into this packed store and waiting forever for service. I took a deep breath and walked through the entrance.  I was no more than two steps into the store when I was greeted by an Apple employee. I expected her to instruct me where I needed to go in order to take a number and wait for service.  Instead, she said, “how can I help you?” I was a little surprised but, I told her what I was looking for.  While standing in the middle of the store she paged someone from a mobile device.  She told me he was the expert and could set me right up with what I needed.  After a few moments Chris was standing next to me answering my questions.

Within minutes of walking through the door I picked what I wanted.  Chris swiped my credit card with his telephone and instantly sent the receipt to my email address.   The entire transaction was done in a fraction of the time I expected in a store that was busier than I thought possible.

A good friend of mine, Stewart Emery wrote a book called “Do You Matter?” A major premise of the book is the idea that customer service is all about the “experience” people have in the transaction of business.  I’ve been to the Apple store a few times now and I can say with conviction that each time has been an amazing experience in customer service.

Another thing Stewart talks about in his book, which the Apple company seems to truly understand,  is that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  The Apple culture of customer service is light years ahead of any other computer company I have done business with – period. No computer company has come close to giving me such great customer service (some other computer companies even rank amongst the worst service I’ve ever had).

Well done Apple.  I will be back again… and again, and again.

If you’ve had a similar customer-service experience, I’d really enjoy hearing it.  Please leave a comment and tell me about it.

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