The future of business is not in measured, scrutinized answers or carefully planned initiatives. Business will soon be about near-instantaneous response; about making the best decisions you can with the extremely limited information you have; about every customer being a reporter, and every reporter being a customer; about winning and losing customers in real time, every second of every day; and about a monumental increase in the availability of commentary about our companies. Business will be always on, always changing, always moving.
Businesses must operate more nimbly and broadly than they’ve ever needed to before. They have to respond with confidence, fail quickly and learn from their missteps, motivate individuals, inspire teams, connect with customers, and demonstrate interest and compassion in their daily business endeavors. That’s far too much responsibility to place on the shoulders of one strata of an organization.
The people among your ranks and the employees you’ve brought aboard have to have the freedom and trust to help you evolve your business and infuse your intent in everything they do. To move as fast as you’ll need to, you must develop a healthy, real-time culture that pervades all corners of your organization.
Here’s five signs that you’re doing it right:
As scale increases culture becomes harder to disseminate throughout an organization. The breadth and diversity of larger teams makes it harder to ensure that culture is clearly communicated, absorbed, and put into daily practice.
You must define and articulate your culture with clarity.
McMurry, a fast-growing custom publishing and advertising company in Phoenix with 165 employees, has a fantastic, effective mechanism for ensuring that its cultural principles are shared and understood in every corner of the organization. Founder Preston McMurry walks the halls regularly, stopping team members at random. If they can recite the company’s mission and core values from memory, he gives them a $100 bill on the spot.
Every employee should have the chance to be a harbinger of change, to engineer something of value from wherever they happen to be—to find their way to success with guidance and support, but in their own manner.
Give them opportunities to weigh in on decisions and share their thoughts about everything from ideas to process, even if it’s not something that’s in their wheelhouse. It’s a great way to tap into the deeper talents of individuals; leverage the strengths, interests, and insights of diverse teams; and demonstrate your investment the people you’ve hired. Their ingenuity might surprise you.
Laboratories and Feedback Loops
Thriving cultures often have something in common: an appetite for experimentation and creativity to see what works, from products to process. It’s a healthy, adaptable organization that can be honest, challenge assumptions, and make changes based on opportunity instead of comfortable familiarity.
A culture that accepts failure is a culture of strength. Being willing to look in the mirror without emotional bias and decide what’s broken and adjust accordingly is a sign of smarts, of growth, and of perseverance.
Diversity of Individuals and Ideas
Although unity of purpose is important, diversity of ideas, opinions, and paths for getting there is what creates the character of an organization. Individuals need to know that their unique perspective is not only valuable but wanted.
Employees of Jones Soda, a 100-person soft drink company in Seattle, are known as “Jonesers.” At Jones, everyone’s ideas are embraced, which reflects their funky, eclectic cult of personality, something that’s always been core to their brand. Their energy drink, Whoopass, has a bottle design created entirely by employees, not by professional package designers or promotions experts. Every employee devises flavor ideas for new sodas, and the entire staff are taste testers. (Turkey and Gravy, miraculously, made the cut. Sadly, Astroturf didn’t.)
People are often motivated by more than money. They’re looking for a sense of accomplishment, appreciation, and intrinsic value in the work they’re doing. Culture-rich companies know this and provide more ways for employees to be rewarded than paychecks and bonuses.
Not sure what motivates the people in your company? Ask. For some, it may be visible recognition. For others, it’s financial rewards. Flexible schedules, the ability to work on side projects, or vacation time are big motivators for some employees. Take the time to ask people how they’d like to be recognized for their work, and set up systems that allow management to respond accordingly.
These are the 5 attributes of a healthy company culture that can succeed in real-time, when employees from all levels of the organization must have the freedom to act fast and use good judgement. How many of these does your company possess?
This is the first in a 7-week blog post series covering themes included in The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social - my new book with Amber Naslund, debuting February 1 (pre-orders and first chapter for free available now).