There’s an enemy at the gates of your organization. His name is status quo. You wouldn’t recognize him as the enemy — he’s friendly, comfortable and easy to get along with. He’s always there as you put together another annual budget with the standard increase to the bottom line. He encourages you to take on yet another reorganization or one more cost-cutting program. He reminds you over and over again how good things are going at the office.
Now the reason status quo is hanging out with you is because he’s been kicked out of other organizations, your competitors’ organizations. They’re not satisfied with good, because good isn’t good enough anymore. And that’s especially true when it comes to corporate culture.
According to a 2013 Booz Allen study 96% of CEOs believe their culture needs change. But only 65% say they are effectively managing their culture. The rest are relying on status quo to keep things going. Even worse, Edgar Schein, author of Organizational Culture and Leadership, warns us that, “The bottom line for leaders is that if they do not become conscious of the cultures in which they are embedded, those cultures will manage them.” Status quo takes over.
Three symptoms of status quo
Status quo sneaks up on you just like a bad cold. Here are three symptoms that your culture may be suffering.
- You did initiate a culture shift, but other priorities have taken over. After all, isn’t it enough to get the widgets out of the factory door with all the competitive pressures out there?
- You find yourself reacting to bottom line pressures with short-term quick fixes. Shareholders and boards of directors are demanding improvements now and if you don’t get results ASAP it’s not going to be a pretty picture.
- Your organization has slipped back into the old way of doing things and no one can remember the core values you previously defined as critical to success. Yep, that was just another fad you created according to your employees. How the work gets done isn’t really that important apparently.
I’ve experienced all of these symptoms during my time in corporate Canada. Back then we could afford to walk hand-in-hand with status quo. But things have changed and it’s time to make new friends. In fact it’s time to boot status quo to the curbside and reboot and energize your efforts to strengthen your culture.
Talking about weather
Mark Twain once said “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” In the business world everyone talks about improving the bottom line, but only those who attack it by dealing with their corporate culture are seeing the sunshine of significant growth. These leaders are seeding the rain clouds and ending the financial drought by reducing turnover, improving productivity and removing the barriers to their strategic plans. It doesn’t matter whether you get your data from Gallup, AON Hewitt or Great Place to Work . Companies with a focus on their culture are seeing higher-than-average stock market growth based on better financial performance.
Control, Alt, Delete
Every day we go about our business unaware that our operating systems are filling up with more and more stuff. How is it that there is never enough time in a day, or that email boxes are constantly full, or that productivity is steadily dropping? When your organization’s performance seems to have bogged down it’s time to look at your culture. While a slower system may still be working for you, if your competitor has upgraded, your status quo isn’t going to be competitive.
It all starts with the diagnostics, you can’t implement the right solution unless you really understand the problem. So it’s time to take control, take an alternate path to status quo, and delete past practices.
- Start by investing in a culture specific survey (not an employee engagement survey).
- Do your due diligence to determine the culture you need in order to be successful.
- Build active culture management into your strategic and operating plans.
Your culture is your organization’s greatest asset or greatest liability. If you’ve drifted into partnership with the status quo it’s not too late. Break away today. It’s time to reboot and re-energize your people, profits and potential!
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