Peter Drucker is attributed to saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Meaning, that no matter how good your strategy is, how much time you spend talking about your strategy, or in many cases, how many consultants you pay to make awesome PowerPoint presentations on strategy, your strategy is going to be useless without the right people demonstrating the cultural values and living these values.
If the company strategy is to deliver the best products and the best services to the customers but does not have the right people in the leadership roles, leaders with the actual skills and abilities to drive these values, there will be a disconnect. If a company spends the time and effort to create mission statements and large colorful posters with aspirational qualities on it – the executive team must live those qualities and be consistent in demonstrating those values.
I’m a big fan of the book Follow This Path: How the World’s Greatest Organizations Drive Growth by Unleashing Human Potential (Coffman & Gonzalez-Molina, 2002). I recommend reading the entire book, but in a two sentence summary of the findings are: “They (the companies surveyed) know that their most valuable resource is human-their employees and customers. And the best companies understand two important facts: people are emotional first and rational second, and because of that, employees and customers must be emotionally engaged in order for the organization to reach its full potential.” My take-away from the research within this book was that if I focused on just customer satisfaction I was solving less than half of my challenges. If I focused on my employees, getting the right people in each role, engaging them through specific metrics and goals, mapping out their career path, understanding what motivates, and providing a robust set of tools to make their work as efficient as possible, that THEY took care of 99.9% of customer satisfaction. Net-Net: if you take care of your employees, the employees take care of the customers.
It takes the right leadership team and the right team members, working together, to make this authentic company culture a reality.