How to Ensure Your Organizational Culture Grows with Your Company

July 15, 2021

If you’re on your company’s leadership team, you know first-hand that the pandemic has shown how a sustained crisis adds urgency and weight to just about every decision you make. These tough economic times bring into focus flaws and gaps that were tolerable and even unnoticed in “easier” times – but not any longer.

Whether you know it or not, your company’s culture has taken center stage as a concern because the workplace has changed in huge and likely permanent ways  which threaten to disrupt the “largely taken-for-granted beliefs and practices that underpin how people work together,” Jennifer Howard-Grenville points out in
MIT Sloan Management Review.

For a company in growth or strategic-pivot mode, any disruption to its culture poses a challenge to its future – or an exciting opportunity to accelerate its growth path with clarified values and improved practices.  

“Culture eats valuations for lunch”

You know the expression “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” What it should be is “Culture eats valuation for lunch.”

What do both expressions really mean? They mean that it’s people – your growing team – that get things done. And their commitment, passion, and energy tie directly to their, and your company’s, productivity.

As much as your focus is on growing the top line, companies in growth mode – and especially during a strategic pivot – need to keep an equal focus on margins and cash flow. Your focus on productivity drives higher EBITDA and thus higher valuations. That’s why culture is key.

Culture is behavior, and behavior is reflected in: what gets recognized, how things get decided, what gets resourced, where lines are drawn in the sand, what gets frowned upon, and what gets rewarded.

For a healthy organization, the goal is to be sure your critical strategic values are made “real” by supporting behaviors.

What constitutes supporting behaviors? Here are some examples:

  • Want to encourage risk taking? Supporting behavior: How do managers respond when things fail? Do they get angry? Are they encouraging?
  • Is agility important? Supporting behavior: Who’s empowered to make rapid decisions?
  • Is creating a culture of trust key to success? Supporting behavior: How do you approach decision delegation?
  • Is a results orientation important? Supporting behavior: How effectively are you providing folks with all the tools they need to succeed and then really holding them accountable?

Tips to reinforce your value-building culture​

  • Please…don’t rely on an exercise that ends up with a list of aspirational statements on a whiteboard in the (virtual) conference room, then declare victory. There’s more to do.
  • As a leadership team, go through an exercise to explicitly identify the key cultural values that are critical to your strategy and success. In a growing company, don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone – even members of the leadership team – is on the same page.
  • Take the time to think through what types of behaviors you need in place to reinforce the values that are important to you. Check if that’s really how you’re operating today.
  • If you’re on the leadership team – and especially if you’re the CEO – create opportunities to demonstrate that you’re “walking that talk.” Nothing works better than leading by example.

What you can expect...
​- Help to prioritize what you need, when you need it, and a game plan to accelerate EBITDA growth.

- Access to an extensive talent network to fill key expertise gaps and bring you the right resources to implement your growth goals.

- Discipline and timeline clarity to execute the initiatives that will move your growth agenda forward quickly and efficiently.

- Confidence that you'll achieve the results you want over the next 12 - 18 months.

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