Reinforcing Culture, Part II

As important as culture is (and we’ve only scratched the surface), it’s something that takes constant reinforcement. It doesn’t survive with nurture, reminders, etc. So, how do we do that? We start by understanding the 3 components that make up culture, i.e. the way we are.

  1. Core Values. These are the guiding beliefs of a team or company. Popularized by Jim Collins in Built to Last, they have been around forever. They form a kind of “Mayflower Compact” for working together. They are the things we hold dear. The things we believe. The things that matter. Values are agreed on ways of being and living together. For example, if “honesty” is a core value, then we all agree to tell the truth to each other and not to lie, cover-up, or deceive. To be reinforced, these must be articulated, agreed to, and written down. We must also define the behaviors that exemplify each value so that we know what it looks like in real life and not just on the wall.
  2. Operating Principles. These are the agreed ways we do business and go to market. For example, a company may choose to be the quality leader in their field and prioritize quality over competitive pricing. Or they may choose the opposite and determine to be the price leader at the cost of top-shelf quality. It’s essential that a company’s leaders agree to go to market in the same way and to instruct employees in why they are doing what they are doing and what it means.
  3. Habits and Customs. These are the invisible, untaught things of your culture that are taken for granted until they are violated. For example, is the company a strict chain of command organization or loose and casual? Do colleagues hug? It is acceptable to go for a drink after work with co-workers or is that considered forbidden. These are rarely defined and rarely recognized. They are “caught” rather than “taught.” Yet, they go a long way in making or breaking a vibrant culture.

Does your company have these ingredients in place? If not, what are you actually thinking you’ll be reinforcing? Take the time to work through these with leadership and find ways to communicate them to all employees.

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