13 Dec 2015

Culture isn’t one thing; it’s everything

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Suki Laniado Smith  is a Partner and Head of Culture for the Shirlaws Group.

Culture is the climate that is created by the choices you make….past, present & future

In the last article we gave an overview of our Cultural Integration System, which I’ll explain in more detail. We developed this system because we believe Culture must be consciously integrated into your business model to accelerate growth and to jump the inevitable black holes.

The Shirlaws Cultural Integration System: Why? What? Who?

  • Why? Accelerates sustainable growth and builds your asset value
  • What? A system to identify, align & integrate the commercial and cultural elements of your business model. Culture becomes a strategic decision making tool
  • Who? People with foresight who understand the potential of building, leveraging and transforming Culture as a strategic asset

Our system focuses on three key areas: Choices, People & Expression

  • Choices – Design/Build/Transform your Culture
  • People – Human Dynamics/Leadership Team
  • Expression – How the world experiences your Brand through the translation of your choices

I recently spoke to two partners who were stuck in a black hole and wanted to transform their business. They said, ‘We’ve only got a tiny budget for personal development.’

I said, ‘That’s great because our Cultural Integration System isn’t a discussion about personal development. In our system, Culture is a C-suite issue about strategic business planning. Its focus is on growing the asset value of your business.’

They looked surprised. ‘When you speak to your other partners,’ I added, ‘Ask them if they are interested in having an asset conversation or a cost conversation.’ ‘Wow,’ they said. ‘That’s changed the entire nature of the conversation!’

Awareness is the greatest agent for change

  1. Culture lens: Choices. Design, build and transform your Culture

When working with business leaders we always ask them to reflect on how they make choices and how they view decision-making.

For example, when you made a particular choice in the past, do you have an awareness of what behaviour resulted?

What was the outcome and commercial impact of that decision across your business – internally, externally and behaviourally?

Through these conversations we help leaders realise how awareness can enable them to make more informed choices. And Culture becomes a catalyst for developing that awareness when it can be systematised and implemented into any business model.

Businesses that view Culture as an asset are far more valuable. They create a foundation of trust in the marketplace and investor confidence that the business has scalable impact.

Culture underpins brand values and codifies the behaviour and mind-set required to express and sustain them. Businesses operating this way build trust and confidence amongst employees and with their customers and other stakeholders.

We often walk into a business and ask people to tell us about the Brand Values. People will turn and say, ‘We need to look them up.’ Or they say ‘They’re over there on the wall.’ These values aren’t embedded or lived in the climate of the business. Instead they are one-dimensional words on a poster that stands alone or a list of activities that tends to isolate Culture as something separate from the commercial aspects of the business.

  1. Culture lens: People. Focus on Human Dynamics

Growing your business successfully relies on understanding Human Dynamics to develop the human capital within your organisation. To grow a sustainable business, we believe that each individual mustwant to take responsibility for their own role. That’s why self-responsibility is a crucial focus when we work with senior leadership teams.

We use our Valuation Model [add diagram] as a roadmap to discuss asset growth and demonstrate the impact on equity value when a business’s Culture is not above the benchmark of its competitors. A key factor in discounting a business’s asset value is when the leadership team is not working well. For example, when it doesn’t have the best and most effective talent, capability and Culture.

Investing in the leadership team as an asset is crucial in taking a business up to benchmark. In my experience of training and coaching leadership teams globally, when leaders only focus and build their individual competencies then they miss out on leveraging whole team capability.

The team needs to build its competencies individually and collectively. Building individual competencies is a positive step that enables the team to support each other through mentoring. On the other hand, developing the team’s competencies collectively enhances the team’s wider capability as a support mechanism for the development of human capital throughout the wider business.

In developing competencies collectively, the whole leadership team escalates. At the same time, it builds the capability of direct report managers and develops the organisation’s next layer of talent more widely. This approach builds the business model and accelerates growth to jump each black hole with the right team in place at the right time to meet the challenges that will arise.

  1. Culture lens: Expression. Demonstrate you’ve delivered your Brand promise

‘Expression’ includes the expression of your people as well as the expression of products and services.

It’s important to remember that your staff are your first customers, which explains the need to focus on Culture. One maxim that captures this says, ‘The way you treat your staff today is the way they’ll treat your customers tomorrow.’

When your overarching intent, values and positioning are aligned, the story you live out every day demonstrates your brand promise – both internally and externally.

We support our clients to capture how this story has developed by building a cultural storyboard. This becomes an asset in its own right that helps to future proof the value of a business. It is a key priority when we work with clients on their equity strategy plan for valuation. Click the link for an excellent storyboard example.

Customers and investors follow businesses with strong alignment because the world understands who they are. Just like Apple, people want to connect, engage and be a part of their story – customers, staff, investors, suppliers and partner organisations.

Shirlaws Cultural Integration System

For us, Culture is a business conversation about a tangible asset.

Business owners and leaders with foresight will see the commercial and equity value that flows from building, transforming and leveraging Culture as a strategic asset.

The powerful Shirlaws Cultural Integration System provides an architecture, strategy and clear steps to integrate Culture into your business model. We developed it because we realised that Culture is a key way to accelerate business growth.

Managing the three focal points of Culture in combination –Choices, People and Expression – will enable you to build and implement a compelling strategy that increases asset value and integrates commercial and cultural choices into your business model.

You implement Culture through every choice you make in your business.

Culture: the vital growth accelerator

Culture is a vital growth accelerator, not something separate or added ‘when we have more time.’

Business leaders with foresight soon discover Culture as a hidden gem and realise the importance of using it as the way to accelerate growth.

Culture isn’t one thing; it’s everything…Culture accelerates business growth.