Mentions of corporate culture and group dynamics have dramatically increased in the news and social media over the past few months.
What’s going on at Uber?
Why did Thinx think this was ok?
Who is responsible for the culture at Fox?
How did this Pepsi ad get made?
How about that passenger on the United flight? (I’m not providing a link. If you haven’t heard of this debacle you should be reading the news, not my blog.)
The firestorms keep coming, many times for companies that were riding highs just a little while ago. Suddenly they're living under a microscope at the center of a maelstrom that questions every policy, decision, and value.
The cultural health of a company or team is like the health of an individual; most of us ignore it until something goes wrong.
We know we should work out more, eat better, see the doctor more often, etc. But the vast majority of us don’t make genuine change until after an ‘event’. For health it can be a scary doctor’s visit, or a cardiac event; for corporate cultures the event can be a mass exodus of key talent, or a very visible and painful failure. Not all of them make the news like the ones I mentioned, but they weaken companies all over the world.
The allure of growth, sales, and other urgent business priorities can lull us into assuming everything is ok until the event; that antiquated policy becomes a customer service nightmare and goes viral, or that ‘internal quirk’ becomes a full-blown incident.
If we’re not constantly strengthening, validating, and communicating our cultural values and what we believe, then we may find ourselves in a similarly dire situation.
Culture is alive and it evolves every time we make a decision about what we value—every yes or no has a ripple. Every business decision has an impact on the people, and the people create the culture.
You'll rarely meet a business leader who brags about having the same business strategy from 5 years ago, but I’ve certainly met leaders who brag about having the same culture from 5 years ago.
Wax or wane, there is no cultural homeostasis.
Culture, like strategy, can’t be successfully maintained as a once-a-year event. It’s got to be something we constantly talk about, care about, and do something about.
It’s easy to look at these companies in the news and believe that they should have known better and done better; what’s more difficult is to look at ourselves and realize that in some instances we’re making the same mistakes.
Don't wait until something falls apart to reflect deeply and honestly. Make the changes while things are good that you'd make if things went wrong.