The pace and scale of change is stress-testing business systems as never before. While most now believe the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will unfold over an 18- to 24-month period, so far, leadership teams have focused principally on operational matters: employee and customer safety, supply chain disruptions, productivity among sheltering workers, compliance with federal, state and local directives.
The success and sustainability of a business has always been a function of its ability to adapt its structure, strategy and culture to emerging internal and external forces. Moreover, these three are inextricably linked. Change the strategy, and changes to the org structure and culture will follow. Reorganize, and your culture will shift.
This means that, in addition to business operations, organizational culture will determine how your organization will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. And just like operations, culture must be measured if it’s to be managed.
Companies with robust culture measurement tools and processes have a clear advantage in this regard. They’re also rare. So what about everybody else? The short answer is, you’d better get crackin’.
A good place to start is by examining company values and behaviors – both as expressed (in leader speeches, on the careers portion of the company website) and – importantly – as experienced by employees in all parts of the organization today. Even in large, global businesses, both qualitative and quantitative assessments can be performed quickly, then analyzed – not for purposes of eliminating variances, but for understanding how the culture works differently in different locations, teams or functions.
Next, it’s important to determine which culture attributes will be most critical to the company’s success as the world emerges from the pandemic. This is where culture intersects strategy: identify the business’ strategic “destination,” along with the culture attributes and behaviors that will be most important at that destination.
Finally, develop a roadmap for strengthening the attributes that will accelerate your progress between now and then, and suppressing those that could impede it. To be effective, the roadmap needs to tie desired behaviors to individual performance – including compensation.
Managing culture isn’t voodoo; the best companies invest in it and use it not only to survive crises, but also as a weapon in the increasingly fierce competition for talent. Wondering which companies those are? Given the current operating environment, you won’t be wondering for long.