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Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast

Ryan Rieches

Management guru Peter Drucker got it right when saying “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” as he clearly understood that corporate culture is an incredibly powerful factor in a company’s long-term success. No matter how good your strategy is, when it comes down to it, people always make the difference.

So how do you create a great culture?  Does it just happen or can you shape it?

You have to first define your culture and most importantly – you must live it and protect it. Living it begins at the top. If people don’t see the executives living and displaying the corporate values that they expect others to live by, the end is near. The problem is that most companies don’t take the concept of defining their values seriously enough. Often they go through the process of identifying values they feel are necessary, but really these are just empty words that don’t mean anything. They check the box and move on. What a waste of time. Or worse, sometimes corporate values are selected as a strategy to “rally the troops” and are really manipulative in nature. This concept can cause resentment and backfire completely.

We find that the best corporate values are those that are personalized and reflect the true beliefs of the company. Above all, avoid standard one word solutions like: integrity, honesty, ethical, teamwork, etc. The best solution is when the values are clearly understood so they truly influence how people make decisions and behave on a daily basis. It is important to remember that values do not drive the business; they drive the people within the business. Values must be internalized by the people in the organization to have meaning.

As part of our process in helping companies develop their core guiding statements of Purpose, Vision and Mission – we often evolve and clarify an organization’s values to reflect their culture. Many clients prefer to keep their values internal and not publish them externally. To illustrate our beliefs, I’ll use an example that many people are familiar with. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, and his team represent a great example of how corporate values can drive business success. Take a look at their viewpoint in words, photos and video.

Zappos Family Core Values – What puts the Zap in Zappos

“As we grow as a company, it has become more and more important to explicitly define the core values from which we develop our culture, our brand, and our business strategies. These are the ten core values that we live by:”

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

 

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