Catalyst: Culture And The Myth Of The Black Box

A month back, our game-changing Lead Consultant, Larry Shulman shared a thought-provoking piece of research, revealing that company culture is the number one influence on employees' leadership competencies.

Let that sink in a moment… because culture even ranks above job function, region, and industry where influence is concerned. It's a big deal. 

But you'd be forgiven for thinking 'ok, what exactly do you mean by company culture?', because it is a nebulous concept. If talk about culture feels a bit intangible and hard to fathom in a business context – a bit woo woo, even – you're in good company! 

Image © Remko Van Dokkum

Image © Remko Van Dokkum

"Cultural change tends to rate alongside tarot card reading and astrology in terms of credibility."
– Quappe, Samso-Aparici & Warshawsky

What do we mean by culture?

Time to offer you some clarity. Today, Larry is sharing a piece which unpacks in more detail exactly what culture is, and how it can have such a crucial effect on an organisations' success.

The article debunks the idea that there's some kind of mysterious "black box" of culture, and includes statistics like these, from a landmark study of companies that intentionally managed their culture, compared to those who did not:

Quappe, Samso-Aparici & Warshawsky found that companies that managed their culture reported:

  • revenue growth of 682 percent, versus 166 percent;
  • stock price increases of 901 percent, versus 74 percent;
  • net income growth of 756 percent, versus 1 percent;
  • and job growth of 282 percent, versus 36 percent.

I know that got my attention! So cultural change isn't an empty branding exercise – this is about hard business goals. It really is that important, and our experience of working with top teams across many different industries echos these results.

Read the full article here

Culture vs. Strategy?

Changing culture doesn't happen overnight. It requires a willingness to step back and take stock of the kind of culture that currently exists, before you think about the kind of culture that you need in place if you want to meet (and beat) your strategic business goals.

Because whilst culture might, in Peter Drucker's words, "eat strategy for breakfast", the two aren't opposing or mutually exclusive. In fact,

"The interplay among all of these elements – inherent values and beliefs, visible systems, behaviors, and symbols – set against the backdrop of business strategy represents a company’s culture."
– Quappe, Samso-Aparici & Warshawsky

Over to you

Have you ever looked at culture as a "soft" aspect of leadership - and does this article convince you otherwise? Can you think of any examples of organisations who've managed to shift their culture in a tangible way? How did they do it? Come over to twitter, let us know.

What colour is your culture?

For further examples of the different kinds of culture than can exist in organisations, take a look at the descriptions on this page and see which one fits yours best.  You'll discover more about the support we can offer to help your top team get to grips with what your culture is currently, and how you can take an intentional approach to developing it.

PS: Spread the word

Did the article we shared today strike a chord with you? Know others who are sceptical about using culture to impact strategic goals? Then spread the word using the "share" button below to Tweet and add to LinkedIn. And don't forget to sign up to our email list to be first to hear about more articles like this.