Is Your Culture Driving Elevated Performance? Mark Porter 22 November 2023

Is Your Culture Driving Elevated Performance?

How would you describe your organization’s culture?

Are you a committed follower thriving in a workplace that values your work?

Does your leadership focus on creating a culture driving sustained competitive advantage?

A simplified definition of Organizational culture is “the way we do things around here”. It is the embedded norms for behavior and performance. Organizational cultures vary from company to company, and within a company because it reflects leadership’s vision, behavior, and personality. Your company’s organizational culture is the greatest influencer of differentiation from other organizations and your company’s ability for sustained competitive advantage. Acceptance of risk, accountability, degree of innovation, and openness to change are characteristics of organizational culture that influence organizational performance.

I was fortunate enough to work with an executive leader who recognized the significance of organizational culture and committed to improving organizational performance by focusing on creating a new culture. The leader described the inherited culture as antagonistic and alienated. Employees were isolated from each other and not engaged because of an autocratic structure with strict rules and rigid business practices. The employees were fearful to take risks, challenge status quo, or collaborate outside of their department.

The leader desired a healthy organizational culture characterized by psychological safety, trust, accountability, and autonomy. Recognizing that leadership is responsible for initializing the foundational system and structure of the desired culture, they initiated actions to establish the desired culture. The primary action was communicating openly and often. Leadership started by clarifying organizational values and behavioral expectations.  The values and behavioral expectations underpinned all decisions and changes implemented moving forward. To ensure alignment and understanding, leadership established individualized and organizational listening sessions to respond to employee needs. As employees understood the underlying reasons for decisions, they became more engaged and aligned their behaviors with the desired organizational behaviors. Employee uncertainty was suppressed resulting in augmented accountability, collective thinking, risk taking, adaptability, and autonomy. Organizational members understood they were empowered, yet accountable to align their actions with the organizational values and behavioral expectations. The desired organizational culture transitioned from leadership driven to employee/follower sustainment.  As Lao Tzu reiterated about the Great Leader: “the people say we did it ourselves”.

Within 18 months the organization had transitioned culturally, and organizational performance substantially improved. The organization became the multi-national companies top rated manufacturer. Key benchmarks with significant change and improvement included productivity, leadership trust index, equipment effectiveness, and employee retention. The result was sustainable improvement in both organizational performance and profitability.

Solutions for barriers to organizational performance are not the sole responsibility of leaders, but leaders are responsible for creating the culture conducive for adaptability and agility in response to the demands of their markets. This leader was astute enough to focus on the people rather than the process and equipment. They created a collaborative organizational culture with accountability that enhanced the stability of business systems while promoting innovative solutions for sustained competitive advantage.

Soteria Alliance develops leaders and cultures that achieve elevated performance!