Monday, March 10, 2014

CULTURE - The Heart of Growth

In the famous words of Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for lunch, every time.” Yes, of course, strategy is important to win in this highly complex, ever changing, unpredictable market place.  For many CEOs, however, strategy is not just an important thing, it’s the ONLY thing.  Their primary focus is a business strategy, smartly derived from intricate algorithms and profound fact based analysis, that will (hopefully) lead to the promised land of double-digit growth, higher valuations and sumptuous margins. Sound familiar?

At RWG, we believe there is another critical, and elastic, aspect of the success equation. An often forgotten “X Factor” and the most unpredictable variable in the formula: The PEOPLE.  The talented individuals in your company who will, if inspired, delight and surprise you.  Think for a moment and be honest with yourself. In your company, is there enough emphasis placed on creating a culture that encourages people to conceive and germinate the ideas that will delight your customer, consumer or client?  Are your people inspired to think big and contribute greatness, even if no one is specifically assigning them the “task” of doing so?

All too often our enterprises are filled with unengaged, unfulfilled humankind where no great strategy, no matter how well envisioned, can take root.

We argue that the Strategy + Culture equation is unbalanced in many companies and needs an adjustment. The path to success should rely less on the minds of analysts and number crunchers and more on the hearts of the employees who are the everyday drum beat of the future. The heart must be nurtured, its spirit cultivated. It must be handled and finessed with the same care and energy given to the creation of your great strategy.  This is not soft talk here. This is hard fact. A company that creates and encourages an innovative culture that unleashes the creative spirit, enables risk taking, and supports career development will be a ripe environment for those smart strategies to take hold.

The evidence is there. Look at Fortune magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies.” Is the emphasis on a strategic plan or is the emphasis on talent cultivation? Consider Southwest Airlines, the most consistently profitable airline on the planet. Where is the emphasis?  They get it. If you take care of your people, the profits will follow. And guess what?  You will attract the best and brightest to join you. It’s a virtuous circle.

Next time you sit down to generate the next big strategic vision, start with the right equation. Think about the culture and environment you are accountable for. Take your head out of the numbers for a moment and listen to the hearts of the people. Are they ready, willing and inspired to climb that strategic mountain with you? Do they understand where you are taking them, and do they have a voice in the direction? Have they been unleashed to help take your ideas to even higher levels? Do they BELIEVE they work for a great company that can do great things?  Put your heart into it…and think about it.