“When the going gets tough…” – well you know how it goes. That’s one good byproduct of what the pundits are calling the Great Panic, i.e., the awful global economic downturn of the past two years.
The good byproduct being that companies have gotten more steeled in understanding what they are all about, their essential values. When those values embrace the customers and workers, along with their shared interests, then great things happen – high performance cultures emerge.
One of the great reads about high performance cultures, in my opinion is the book “Corporate Culture and Performance,” by John Kotter and James Heskett. For as long as there have been management consultants, there’s been a lot of jibber jabber about the importance of corporate values and culture.
Which is what I loved about this book when I discovered it. Because the authors applied some empirical methods and data analysis to the case. I cite this key passage in Chapter 1, page 11 (of my copy): “We found that firms with cultures that emphasized all the key managerial constituencies (employees, customers, and stock/stakeholders) and leadership from managers at all levels outperformed firms that did not have those cultural traits by a huge margin.”
But, it gets better: “Over an eleven-year period, the former increased revenues by an average of 682 percent versus 166 percent for the latter, expanded their work forces by 282 percent versus 36 percent, grew their stock prices by 901 percent versus 74 percent, and improved their net revenues by 756 percent versus 1 percent.”
Now that’s what I call some serious motivation for getting your CFO to invest in the “touch feely” stuff, come your next budget review cycle! The book was published in 1992, so the period documented was pre-dot com boom/bust, instead covering the economic cycle of the 1980s, most compared to the current one.
The process of actually influencing your company’s leadership to build a high(er) performing culture is a whole other subject. One resource I will offer, however, is what I view as some of the best new insight on organizational change management that has come along in 20 years, from VitalSmarts, in a book called “Influencer.” I highly recommend it!
In the “Influencer,” you’ll read about a model of influence, in which two of its critical components are peer pressure and peer support. Regarding peer pressure and support, two very different but fine examples of the peer effect in action are the series of broadcast commercials developed by New Zealand Airlines and the “Get Excited” design campaign described in the New York Times earlier this year.
Each in its own way, provides an example of leaders, managers, and workers engaged in an activity that they believe captures the essence of their culture. And, as Kotter and Heskett have documented, getting excited about your culture can definitely have a direct impact on improving your net worth!