Does Organization Culture Really Matter?

What Henry Ford Teaches us about Corporate Culture.  Henry Ford & Model T

For most of us today, asking if organization culture matter seems like a ridiculous question. Executives openly ask if the company culture is right to meet their goals. Hiring managers ponder whether or not an interviewee will fit their culture. Merger and acquisition analysts spend countless hours looking at how a new purchase will affect the corporate culture. A Google search on “organizational culture” results in over 12 million hits. Type in “corporate culture” and 48 million will pop up.

…organization culture first appeared in print in 1979 in an academic paper studying a British boarding school.

But the fact is, the term “organization culture” first appeared in print in 1979 in an academic paper studying a British boarding school. So, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller built the world’s largest companies without ever hearing that phrase. It’s probably a safe bet to say they never spent time agonizing with their board members about the company culture. So, why are we?  Perhaps they knew something intuitively it took us over a hundred years to figure out.

In 1908, Henry Ford was determined to build a simple, reliable and affordable automobile. His goal was to create a car the average American worker could buy. Now, Ford didn’t invent the car. His innovation was to build his new Model T on an assembly line to lower cost. But, he didn’t invent the assembly line either.

What Ford did was clearly communicate his mission and vision to his employees. Each line worker could see how their job contributed to making an affordable car and watch them roll off the factory floor. Within four years, his people had gotten so good at perfecting his vision, he could drop the price of a car by a third from $875 to $575. Ford then demonstrated the value of their contributions by rewarding his employees with the first 40-hour work week and raising their pay to nearly twice the hourly rate of the average American worker at the time.

Assembly Line Model T

Henry Ford’s simple idea gave his employees a shared vision and purpose. They were all committed to making the world a better place by building a car anyone could own. The idea of an affordable car was so inspiring they improved the assembly line making the Model T even more affordable. They were, in turn, rewarded with a shorter work week and more pay which quickly made Ford Motor Company one of the best places to work in the country further reinforcing their belief in their purpose.

So, while Mr. Ford may have never heard the phrase “organizational culture”, he obviously knew something about the power of a shared vision and the motivational impact of a common purpose.  These are the very elements at the heart of a corporate culture. Employees can achieve incredible results when they’re inspired to action. Inspiration comes from clearly seeing how your company changes the world and understanding how your individual efforts make a difference.  A century after first telling his employees they were going to build a car anyone could buy; Ford is still one of the best known and largest companies on the planet.  The simple vision Henry Ford shared with the line workers in his factory literally reshaped the American landscape. Today, there are nearly 4,000,000 miles of paved roads in the US that never existed when the folks at Ford were just trying to make a simple, affordable car.  That’s the world-changing power of a shared vision and purpose in creating an inspiring organization culture.

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7 Hallmarks of Great Internal Communication

Creating an effective B2B story is more than just targeting customers and segments. It means developing a story to engage your employees. After all, they are the front line with your customers. Paul Barton, an internal communication expert who has worked with companies like Hawaiian Airlines, Pet Smart and America West share (7) hallmarks for creating an effective internal communication strategy.

Internal Communications Consultant

internal communication employees

Great internal communication is about:

  1. Communication (without an “s”) where the emphasis is on an ongoing strategic process, not about communications where the focus is on individual tactics.
  2. Influencing, including and listening to achieve employee engagement, not commanding and controlling to obtain task compliance.
  3. Communicating the “what” and the “why” like a business partner, not just the “what.”
  4. Speaking to hearts and heads to encourage action, not just speaking to heads to inform.
  5. Integrating and coordinating messaging with feedback built into the process, not one-off and fragmented communications.
  6. Having established “rules and tools” that serve as a foundation for flawless communication, not undocumented processes and off-the-cuff rules.
  7. Getting through to internal audiences to achieve meaningful outcomes, not just focusing on measurable outputs.

What other characteristics do you think belong on this list of hallmarks of great internal communication?

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How To Capture and Hold Anyone’s Attention

Kid with Megaphone

Many, including some TIME Magazine articles, have argued people’s attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter.  But, in fact, I’d argue the explosion of media competing for our attention simply makes it more difficult to capture a person’s attention.

This post by Daniel Goleman, author of FOCUS:  The Hidden Driver of Excellence explores capturing attention by triggering the the orienting response in the brain and how some Vine posts are taking advantage of it to capture millions of followers and become web sensations.

Additionally, he discusses how important it suddenly becomes once you do capture someone’s attention to have a “story” to tell to engage them.  There are valuable for marketers trying to stand out from the crowd and to engage prospects.  So, take a look.

Re-blogged from LinkIn:  How to Capture and Hold Anyone’s Attention.

Learn more about the “Orienting Response” on Wikipedia.  It’s something that could help you stand out from the crowd.

Brand stories cut to the “heart” of the matter.

Core Values - Image 2 - Reduced Size

Core values are the beating heart of every business. Genuine core values will capture the imagination and passions of employees. Customers should feel those values in every interaction with the company, its personnel and its products. But how do you tell the story of a core value?

When Liberty Mutual’s “Half an Acre” ad first appeared about 7 years ago, I’d actually stop whatever I was doing to watch it. I’d  even watch the entire show in hopes of seeing it again. Not because of the music (which, by the way, is great for this) or the production value or the fact that it was a 60 second ad in a world of thirty and fifteen second spots. I watched because the STORY simply mesmerized me and tied so well to a core value of the company.

Liberty Mutual’s Culture and Value Statement includes: “WE BEHAVE WITH INTEGRITY. We are in the business of trust. Our most important promise is that we will strive to do the right thing, always.

Now, this ad is nothing more than nine vignettes of common people helping others. But it tells the  story of how “doing the right thing” is contagious and has a karmic way of coming back to you. A story that resonates in the heart of anyone who’s ever held a door for a stranger loaded down with groceries or stopped to help collect someone’s fallen papers.  And this simple story speaks volumes to the values of the company.

Many people think a brand story has to begin with “Once upon a time” or “Our founder believed”. But, in fact, a brand story can be as close as the value statement hanging in your lobby and is told in the actions of the people who share and demonstrate that value every single day to your customers. There’s an engaging brand story you should think about telling.

Template for Storytelling

Storytelling can be a powerful tool for institutionalizing best practices, communicating cultural values and even building a stronger brand image for your organization.  The American Society for Training & Development has  a simple “Storytelling Job Aid” to help companies capture stories.  I really enjoyed this blog including that storytelling template and hope you will find it useful.

Starry Blue Brilliance

Storytelling is a compelling and effective way to engage employees. The attached template published by the American Society for Training & Development can help you identify, create and track your organization’s stories. Once you uncover and document key stories, you can use them to support your communication strategy.

Storytelling Job Aid

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