Is Culture Always the Problem in Any Business?
I cannot state this with enough emphasis. Most CEOs and companies “do not know what they don’t know”, which includes several invisible battlegrounds. Consultants would have no business at all if this were not true, because clients would understand and prevent all, or most, problems in advance.
Generally, when a Consultant begins the discovery process they find that the actual (root) problem, not the symptom, is at least 2-3 levels away from what the client thinks the problem is. For example, the client says sales are slowing (symptom not problem). Inevitably the Consultant will find out they have 3-4 other systemic issues that allowed this issue to fester and grow for the last 6-24 month. And it eventually developed into something urgent (pain point) that is so visible it must be fixed right away.
In actuality the root cause(s) might be underfunded or defunded product development, the product aged itself into obsolescence, customer service is poor and/or the sales process needs to evolve due to outside factors like competition. It may also be that the quality of lead generation has declined or competitors have improved their messaging. Literally there are thousands of possibilities and a good consultant will determine the root issues quickly. Most often there are a few partial issues, as opposed to one, that cumulatively created the symptom the client thinks is the problem. There could be 1, 5 or even 10 root issues but internal people cannot see them because of cogitative dissonance, lack of perspective (scope) or lack of experience. They are so used to these mistakes because they are now just SOP. The problem generators are part of the culture and daily operations.
You can always argue culture (people) are at the root of any problem, or any success too. Not having the “right people on the bus” is always going to drive lots of problems eventually. So the statement of “culture” being the problem is both meaningless and hard to argue with at the same time. It is a catch all excuse. Peter Drucker, The Father of Management, is claimed to have said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. If he said this what he meant is certainly that even the best strategy will fail without excellence in execution, which is created by the proper culture.
Almost all problems are preventable at the root. However, most people in an organization lack the experience, critical thinking and sometimes even the desire to prevent problems early on in their life cycle. They cannot possibly see the effect of what they are doing three months later, in another department, or in a customer’s place of business because each individual contributor has very limited scope of understanding. It is the Managers job to do that and to prevent these problems through a better understanding of the issues that can come up down the line (in time, life cycle or processes). They must see across departments. Managers must understand human behavior and risks. They must think through the permutations of possible problems that can develop any time a procedure is created, a product is changed, a position or person is added or any change in the norm happens. This is not easy and few people have the forethought and discipline to do this. It takes mental effort. In fact, all managers are supposed to be thinking about these downside possibilities even when there are no changes happening. That is the job of Managers.
Creating the optimum culture requires vast experience and understanding of human nature, the customer, the employees and mony other things too. It requires systematic ways of operating to insure quality and consistency in delivery of a product or service, whether internal to a company or external to the customer.
Our “Systemization of Culture” is called Human Capital Acquisition and Development (H-CAD for short). It sets up a win-win scenario for the employee and the company that reduced turn-over, increases worker satisfaction and provides a path for challenge and growth for the top employees that are ambitious to move up in the organization over time.
The other 5 Systems are:
- a) A Strategic Planning Process which decides the correct “what to do” long-term and communicates this, as well as connecting it to day-to-day activities.
- b) Management Best Practices and the five styles of managing people well. This contains hundreds of proven ways for managers to improve results collected over 30 years from over 1,000 books and vast experience.
- c) Dashboards and Metrics to run the business by the numbers and enable Management by Exception (MBE=autopilot for mature processes and employees). Counterintuitively, hardly ever can employees see and design the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), or metrics they are measured by well. They are too close and also have a conflict of interest. They are stuck in a way of thinking that developed in their past, maybe even many years ago at another job.
- d) Strategic Budgeting – to decide on innovation investments and opportunities that accountants cannot handicap or understand that will drive most growth and good learning mistakes.
- e) Process Management – The process to document, train and improve processes constantly using the principles of Kaizen and W. Edwards Deming who revolutionized manufacturing and allowed the Japanese to go from post World War II devastation to the leading manufacturer of automobiles and many other things in the latter half of the 20th century.
These six systems can absolutely prevent almost all serious problems in any company preemptively. You could always subdivide them further, but this is a very manageable and teachable model with 6 Systems.
See videos on each at: www.AirTightMgt.com if you are curious. We are training and certifying consultants in these and now have over 160 training videos on-demand to instill best practices and optimization of an organization’s culture. These allow us to deliver results far more cost effectively than traditional consultants because we spend less time in repetitive tasks, allow each employee to go at their own pace and coach them through change.