Culture: By Default or By Design?

Every organization has a culture. But not every organization designs their culture.

How does Culture get to be what it is? From my research and experience, I'd say that culture can be by default (it just is) or culture can be by design (it is what we want it to be). 

A favorite example of a culture by design is that of Southwest Airlines, one that has been well researched over the years and written about extensively. Their story clearly depicts the influence of the early leaders, choices they made, obstacles they faced, and the first successes they had, all of which laid the foundation for what came later. 

For a small glimpse of the Southwest culture, here is a video of former CEO and founder Herb Kelleher and one of the flight attendants.

Clearly culture means a great deal to Southwest Airlines.

It reminds me of a company I worked for in the 1990's. Our CEO 'Bob' used to talk to Wall Street audiences about the "secret weapon" that we possessed, namely our culture. Like Kelleher's point about the competitive advantage that culture provides, Bob used to say that "Our people, and how we work together in teams to serve our customers, these are the secrets to our success."

Thinking about that company, I once wrote about the "secret recipe" that it developed and followed:

R = Results Focus: Everyone in the Company, from the CEO to the front-line, is focused on delivering results each and every day. That's why they come to work.

E = Engaged Employees: Engaged employees are "fans of the brand." They believe in the Company and they are willing to do whatever it takes to deliver high quality results to your customers.

C = Customer Focus: Your Customer is at the center of everything you do. They are The Reason you are in business. As Peter Drucker once said "The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer."

I = Innovative: Your culture is change-ready and always on the lookout for bright ideas that can keep you ahead of your competition. "Good enough" is not.

P = Purposeful: You are driven by your Mission, your Vision of the future, and your Values that you hold dear.

E = Engaged Employees: You are obsessed with talent. Talented people and teams are the key to growing the business. Where do you get engaged employees? You hire them.

Did you notice that Employee Engagement showed up twice in the secret sauce? That's because it is THE KEY ingredient. Your people are your most important asset.

Shake that ingredient in twice.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on June 26, 2016. Looking for more ideas on how culture can be designed to help your business succeed? Terry Seamon is an Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.


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