Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is Culture A Process?

Like most of us, when I hear the word "culture" I start rolling my eyes... But time and again, I keep seeing examples of how a vague cultural process can lessen the potential of an organization. Frankly, vague is how I describe business culture anyway, so I'm starting to wonder why I'm writing this post. However, as a sales and marketing strategist, and one bent on process management (CRM), I believe in the value of workflow. So I must think that culture can be a process too... Let's think on this...

I'd like to explore culture from the perspective of a remote software business. Let's face it, remote workers are the future, so helping them navigate a culture is likely one of the most important jobs of the CEO and leadership team. But how is this done?

To start, I have to say that I'm fortunate to work with a CEO that's sensitive to employee needs. I've learned that having close working relationship as well as "knowing" your employees more will net you large dividends. So, step 1, get to know your employees with a weekly or monthly check in. In another company, I saw the CEO open the product management process to several team members (outside of the normal product team). This was a brilliant move! Employees that had a direct role with customers were able to feedback on what the isolated product team was building. Furthermore, excitement about the product direction and features trickled down to other teams. So, step 2, involve many team members in the user story debates (agile). Don't let misinformation hurt your product's success. Probably the most powerful cultural tactic I've ever seen was a teaching process developed by a sales executive during his morning boiler-room meetings (a group let's kill it today meeting). He would, on a conference call, discuss three things he learned from his team members during the previous sales calls that day. He made it a point to teach, and pass on knowledge. So, step 3, create a learning organization by teaching what you've learned. Don't let little kernels of knowledge slip into oblivion - teach! And that's all I got for now...
  1. Get to know your employees! Understand their fears, needs, wants, concerns... Open up the path of understanding (pretty much a core need of all humans)
  2. Involve and engage! Don't just play lip service to this. Actually bring in other team members to council you on your innovation and product development. 
  3. Create a learning organization! This doesn't mean buying an expensive Learning Management System or having VP of Teaching. It simply means you know people are sharing knowledge, and they want to! 
There is a lot of trust with culture, but that's all you can really do... If you don't trust it, and try to manage it with "outside experts" you might already be in trouble. Just get the behaviors right, and the best culture will emerge. 

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