You know what? I used to think that organizational culture, purpose and values were feel-good things – just fluff and a waste of time. Those were my early, naive days. I now know Culture is valuable and a powerful, strategic tool.

Validated by the research of Jim Collins and other thought leaders, and my own experience, companies with a strong, defined Culture flow better and are more fun to work in. To build a great company, you need a great Culture and aligned people with a strong focus on results.

When we work with companies on their Culture, we put three principles and then four drivers in place:

Three Principles

Define your Vision, Culture and What Your Company is About

  1. A clear Purpose – why you exist beyond profit.
  2. A clear BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal, a Jim Collins’ concept) – a massive goal the organization rallies toward for the next 10 to 25 years.
  3. Clear core Values – actual behaviours required in the company, not just a list what makes a nice person but those required to exist in the company. It’s a list from which you hire and fire. If people are consistent with the Values, we want them on the team; if violated, they can’t stay in the company (even when they are shareholders actively working in the business).

Four Drivers

What You Need to Keep Your Company Strong

  1. Hire people based on the organizational culture. Make sure they are good at the job, and a natural fit working well within the operating system of the company.
  2. Decide who to promote, reprimand and/or release from the company with culture in mind. Those who don’t fit are given the chance to fit in or are freed up and helped to find a more appropriate place to work.
  3. Reinforce the Culture three to five times a year to keep it alive. Otherwise, your core Values and Vision fade are forgotten and fade into the background like wallpaper. These could be an annual award event, shared stories that link back to your core Values and Purpose and/or incorporated into speeches or presentations by the CEO or executives.
  4. Build your Culture language. In companies with a strong Culture, we frequently hear the words that relate to core Purpose and Value. For example:

[A] One company we work with has an accountability and action core value called “I’m on it now.” Instead of saying, “I’ll do that” they say, “I’m on it now” and it’s become part of the Culture

[B] Another company says “elevate people” to describe how we help them to learn and grow

[C] Another says “down to earth” as a key phrase. How often the words are used and referenced in a conversation is an acid test of the strength of the Culture.

The Challenge

  • Have you truly clarified your Culture in a tangible and meaningful ways (Values, Purpose and BHAG)?
  • Are you using them to define and filter the people who join, promote and exit the company?

Do you need help to define your Vision and Culture? Call us, we’d be happy to help.