Corporate Culture: From Competitive Advantage to Competitive Weapon

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Supercharge your future direction and turn your corporate culture from a simple competitive advantage to a powerful competitive weapon.  In a previous blog post, we discussed how to take the first step to use your corporate culture to competitive advantage.  Here we’ll up the ante to transform the company culture into a powerful weapon for corporate success and growth.

Missed out on earlier posts? Check out the first post in this series here.  If you didn’t read the previous post, you might want to read it first.

Cultural Transformation Process Step 3: Context-Specific Company Definition of Target Cultural Values

Now that you have your Target Cultural Values and your Company Impediments to Target Cultural Values, you can create the employee-ready version that defines, in detail, the Target Cultural Values together with a one-sentence context-based definition.

As we described earlier, context is everything, and without the company-specific explanatory text, you are likely to have people doing what they think you want but in reality they are merely continuing to do what’s been done before, because they didn’t really understand the change you needed.  Even the most enthusiastic workforce will not function as a competitive weapon if they don’t understand the true definition of your desired culture.  To truly forge your workforce into a self-motivating, self-managing competitive weapon, the version of your values that you present to your employees will need to incorporate and deeply understand the employee context.

Employee-ready Contextual Cultural Values Definition

At the end of this step, you should have an employee-ready slide defining the Target Cultural Values and a context-specific description of how that target cultural value is to be exemplified in everyday work habits.  In subsequent steps, you’ll use this context specific description to create employee cultural transformation education materials and operational reinforcement of the desired cultural changes.  The latter are discussed in the following sections.

Example of Completed Employee-Ready Target Cultural Value and Contextual Value Definition

competitive weapon

Company Context Examples

To further clarify the importance of context in crafting cultural transformation definitions, let’s discuss an example of a single Target Cultural Value in the context of two completely different company cultures.

Both companies have teamwork problems and hence have chosen “Work Effectively as a Team” as a Target Cultural Value.  As you will see, understanding the context will help you craft messages that resonate specifically with your unique workforce context.  With the improved employee understanding that this generates, you will be armed with a competitive weapon that helps your company succeed.

NOTE CAREFULLY, each company has a fundamentally different teamwork problem, and two very different cultures, leading to two very different definitions under the heading “That Means We…” in the Employee-Ready Target Cultural Values & Definition Template.  This is because the definition is there to tell employees how you want them to fix the problem, not just say “this is the value we want you to follow” — because if you’re trying to change the culture, by definition, you need to be specific in how you show them the way.

Company 1: Every Person for Themselves

Company 1 has a long history of hyper-aggressive behavior in which peers are encouraged to work for their individual benefit as long as it achieves corporate results.  Teamwork is viewed in the context of temporary alliances as a means to an end, and if sabotaging your peers gets the job done, you are rewarded.  This has created a culture in which working as a team is not viewed as an important value.

In this context, the Company Impediment to the Target Cultural Value “Work Effectively as a Team” is “the executive team doesn’t work collaboratively” and the Target Value Definition would potentially be “Don’t undermine your coworkers”.  In this instance, the definition of the cultural value serves to tone down the aggressive culture and to emphasize, “Yes, you must work with your team members – it’s no longer ok to undermine the team”.

Company 2: Consensus-driven with Decision Avoidance

Company 2, on the other hand, has a long history of consensus-driven culture where employees socialize in and out of work and managers are averse to making any kind of decision that will make “employees unhappy”.  Over time, “teamwork” has grown to be associated with socializing in the company kitchen, asking how everyone’s weekend went, and other social activities, not with effectively working together to achieve a business result.

In this context, the Cultural Impediment would be “the executive team doesn’t demand high levels of performance, and delegating to the ‘team’ has become synonymous with lack of individual responsibility and accountability for getting tasks done”.  The Target Value Definition of “Work Effectively as a Team” would be “Complete your assigned tasks, communicate with the team – but your performance is your own responsibility, not the teams”.  In this instance, the definition of Target Cultural Value serves to amp up the passive culture, unlike the first example, where it serves to tone down the culture.

In both these cases, you are giving employees a specific direction (amping up or down) to go from where they are today to where they need to be.  With this finely tuned instrument now working in concert, your corporate culture now becomes your competitive weapon, with nimble, focused, and energized employees.

Without Company Context, Effective Target Value Definitions are Impossible

competitive weapon

As you can see from the two dramatically different statements under the “That Means We” (aka Target Value Definition), both Company 1 and Company 2 share the same Cultural Value — but how that cultural value is defined to employees is completely different based on the completely different cultural contexts of the employees.

Don’t forget: context is everything.

Want to learn more?  Check out the next blog post in this series.

Don’t “Go It Alone”!

When facing challenging situations, seasoned management consulting professionals can make a difference between failure and success.  BusinessExcelleration’s former operating executives have “been there, done that” through multiple similar situations and can bring a wealth of knowledge and experience and expertly apply it to your particular corporate transformation and help you create a high performance culture.  Learn more about our services!

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