The Power of Culture

Femi Adebanji  l  Customer Service Speaker and Expert

Creating a truly customer focused business that delivers distinct service excellence begins from one place and one place only - first getting the organisation's internal culture right

The simple fact is this – the sort of culture that exists within a business has the potential to propel that business towards the achievement of its goals OR completely sabotage the business from within and without. Business success does not manifest by accident, but rather by intention, and there is a strong and direct correlation between superior business performance and a performance-driven business culture; conversely a strong correlation exists also between poor business performance and a weak business culture.

Businesses with performance-oriented cultures have essentially created an environment that supports employees in being as effective as possible in both supporting the business goals and maximising their own potential within the organisation. Businesses with winning cultures not only see employees as assets and focus on bring out the best in them, but they take it a step further – they provide the employees with the tools to empower themselves and make a valuable contribution to the business. Effectively, they create an ethos that permeates throughout the organisation that ultimately binds people and processes together with the consequent effect of delivering results.

In the book “Corporate Culture and Performance”, John Kotter and James Heskett conducted a comprehensive research study ploughing through 11 years of data that spanned 207 companies in 22 different industries. They conducted a comparative analyses of businesses with strong cultures relative to those with weak or non-existent cultures - and the results were astounding.  

The result? Well you guessed right - Businesses with strong performance focused cultures significantly outperformed their weak culture counterparts at virtually every point -  be it in terms of revenue increase, share-price increase and net incomes increase and so on. High performance cultures deliver results, they create a strong and vibrant workplace environment, they stimulate and encourage innovation, they reduce employee turnover and encourage key staff and high-performers to remain…the list goes on!

Businesses that are truly serious about performance  must take the time to carefully and “deliberately” design and shape their corporate culture; as it is the calibre and the state of health of their culture that will either facilitate the delivery of strong performance or hijack it.

Unfortunately what tends to happen oftentimes is that business cultures tend to evolve by “accident or default”, instead of being intentionally shaped and designed. Consequently, in such cases of “default cultures” there ends up being a mismatch between where the organisation wants to go and its present culture. 

I have personally come across cases where the “culture–vision” mismatch is so great that the culture ends up sabotaging the vision, and the organisation ends up right back where it started (after having invested countless man hours and financial capital on attempts to implement a new strategic vision). Left to its own, a business with a weak culture will eventually decline in profitability, performance and customer loyalty unless a culture-shaping intervention is initiated.

Bottom line - It is culture that drives performance and it is culture that facilitates or hinders the capacity to introduce change within organisations! I would even go as far as saying that the greatest source of competitive advantage for any business lies not in its product, service, intellectual property, or technology (though these are of critical importance) - the greatest source of competitive advantage for any business lies within its culture.