With the wrong culture strategy is irrelevant.
Updated: Jan 23, 2021
Many businesses see their route to success being automation, technology or streamlining of process – perhaps even all three. For some the resolution to the problems of poor customer management or poor sales is to try and implement strategies that their businesses or teams are ill-prepared for, or moreover, not disciplined enough to implement.
As an example, we work with business owners who hitherto the CV-19 pandemic (in a time when ‘normal’ operating conditions prevailed) were aiming to implement new ideas and schemes to overcome certain challenges. One such client of ours had been trying to improve their service delivery and project certification processes. They had tried a number of different things, including:
Recruiting a project manager to oversee and implement changes
Having a bespoke CRM designed and rolled out to allow swift and automated communication with their customer and client base (at a cost of +£25k)
Design and production of new company policies to enforce change
The rollout was unsuccessful. Notwithstanding a complete disregard to any logical change management process which no doubt didn’t help (google Kotter’s 8 or Kubler-Ross change management process), even with an efficient and comprehensive deployment, the project was doomed to fail. Why? The core culture of the business simply wouldn’t allow change or new processes to happen. To use a term, it was rotten.
The imperative of culture
We were engaged to ensure the delivery of this new strategy and to bolster the transition process but before undertaking a task like this, we wanted to understand the foundation of the business, namely it’s people and it’s culture. It didn’t take long to identify that the relationship between senior management and staff was ropey at best and that despite their claim of putting clients first – they simply didn’t. Every step of the customer journey or project deployment was done with the least amount of effort and by people who were completely demoralised and who certainly didn’t care about their job nor their client. Putting any new scheme or idea into this environment, not matter how expensive or useful it may have been, was being undermined by a culture that would not support it. New ideas and schemes were seen as pointless or a waste of time. Staff didn’t understand or care about them anymore than the SMT showed they cared about their people. It was adversarial. Unproductive and hugely wasteful. Changes that were met with incredulity and put down as ‘another pointless SMT initiative’.
Fast forward 6 months and the business had made demonstrable changes in encouraging a positive and cohesive working environment. The SMT were coached and encouraged to look at their own management style and purpose within the business. How they interacted with their teams; what the term ‘client’ actually meant to them and their business; how they could get the best from their teams and what changes were required to ensure the newly defined business objectives. With the heads of the business now in alignment on the importance of a positive and effective culture, the wider business started to evolve too.
A change in culture is not necessarily quick or easy and there was some limited staff turnover from those who despite supported and encouraged to adapt to change, simply wouldn’t. New staff members were instilled with a positive and caring attitude that they embraced from day one – this included the adoption and correct use of new process and strategy. Of course, some cultures need little more than fine tuning and not a wholesale shift. It is also true to say some strategies are less arduous for businesses to adopt.
It's not a one-hit solution
Like our own mental and physical health, getting into good practices can ensure that most of the time we are in a ‘healthy’ state or condition. Culture within business is much the same – it sets the standard and condition of a ‘healthy state’ but it needs to be maintained and monitored. With the right foundation and attitude, transparency and clear objectives, creating high-performance cultures is within the grasp of any business. A positive and supportive culture allows much greater flexibility and affords businesses the ability to successfully implement new strategies when they wish to do so.
If you are struggling to implement change, asked yourself this one question: How’s the culture in my business?