Friday, January 7, 2011

Rethinking the human experience at work

Culture is a combination of beliefs and actions.  Sometimes we use the word "values", but truth be told, most of us do not know what that means in an organizational context. We have become cynical about values. They tend to be relegated to the back of the annual report and are rarely talked about, and even more rarely challenged.

Culture is a wild card. It can be enabling or disabling with nothing in between.  To further add complexity and potential risk to the scenario is the impact that leadership has on culture. The leadership style, tone and perspective defines culture.

Culture impacts how an organization interacts with its employees, its customers, its suppliers and its community.   "The Portable MBA in Strategy" cites stakeholders as:  shareholders / owners, employees, government, customers, and society.  Relevance is the key to survival in business today.  If employees do not find an employer relevant, they will either not engage, or not work there. If a customer finds the products or services irrelevant, they shop elsewhere. If the shareholder finds the value proposition irrelevant, they put their financial support in another bucket.  It's important to understand the perspective of the various stakeholders if one wants to be relevant to them.

The leader today must balance and manage the culture and the stakeholder environment.  He or she must have a clear view of what each of these "communities" value, and how to manage their expectations. Each of these groups bring their expectations to the table, and judge accordingly.

The culture question comes back to "me", whether I am the owner, employee, government, customer, or community.  The role of leadership and organizational management is therefore increasingly more complex.  The leader must not only ensure the organization is financially strong, and customer relevant, he or she must provide leadership that is inspiring, respectful, and invites people to belong. Only then can an organization be successful.

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