Tag Archives: Cultural

Change Management Is Essential to Success: Organizational Culture Seeing the Big Picture

Organizations worldwide are, have been and will continue to be required to undergo serious changes if they are to stay competitive and be able to grow profitably now and in the future. One of the major changes required is way that management manages the human capital within the organization. The methods and approaches used by leaders, used by ‘the boss’. Further understanding of how people WANT to be lead and managed is essential if an organization is going to be able to attract and retain key people.


When we’ve lived with certain assumptions for a very long time, they become part of the unquestioned realities we accept as ‘truths’. Any challenge to these ‘truths’ seems like an act of undiluted insanity or, at the very least, a display of extreme stupidity.

One of the assumptions relating to the boss that many of us seem to live by is that “the boss is always right.” We have also heard of the two rules for getting along with your boss: “Rule #1 = The Boss is always right.” “Rule #2 = If in doubt, refer to Rule #1.”

In fact, the boss-employee relationship is typical of many other ‘superior’-‘subordinate’ relationships in our culture. Let me enumerate those that I have had the opportunity to observe or experience first-hand.

Begin at childhood: Children are basically the ‘property’ of their parents. Parents can dictate the course of their children’s destiny in many ways. They could go as far as selecting a future husband or wife for one of their minor children, arranging the entire marriage with minimal consultation on how the individual affected really feels about the whole thing; choosing their children’s future careers, generally doctor, lawyer or engineer; or keeping them locked up in a room for most of their lives, if they are ashamed of a physical or mental handicap their child may exhibit. There is no recourse to courts of law or children’s rights groups that could take action against an offending parent. Naturally, parents are acting in accordance with what they believe are in the child’s best interest. Children such as these can grow into bosses, but more likely into submissive employees.

At the other extreme are parents who delegate the upbringing of their children to those who are paid to do the job, day and night. Children in such households have to get into serious trouble before they can attract the attention of Mom or Dad who are too busy doing their ‘own thing’ and living the ‘good life’. Children such as these can grow into employees, but more likely into cold and unfeeling bosses.

Between both extremes there are the varying shades of ‘average’ households where Mom stays home and does literally everything for the children and Dad, of course. Dad is fully occupied in bread winning activities that keep him away from home a good deal of the time. Children such as these grow into employees, independent professionals, career managers and sometimes bosses.

“What a deterministic view!” you say. I agree. Or you say, “But that’s stereotyping and pigeonholing people!” I agree again. Do me a favor though, list all the exceptions you can think of and compare the percentage to those who do fit the stereotypes.

Go on to school-life. At home Mom was always right, or Dad was always right or they just didn’t care as long as you didn’t get into trouble that money couldn’t fix. At school, the teacher is always ‘right’ and oddly enough, at college the ‘professors’ were mostly always ‘right’ too. In fact you were rewarded on how accurately you reproduced their views without challenging them. ‘Challengers” were perceived as trouble-makers and were dealt with accordingly.

Generally speaking, the ‘good-guys’ are the conformists who go on to become ‘obedient’ employees or ‘devoted’ middle-managers until a better offer comes along. The ‘trouble-makers’ are those who leave the country, if they can. Enjoy the change so much, they don’t come back

The common theme here is that the authority-figures throughout our lives act according to the assumption that they are always right and others have the obligation to follow without resistance. Conflicts, resistance of any kind and even mild questioning can be viewed with anxiety and apprehension. The response can be fierce from authority-figures who feel threatened by such challenges.

Could there be a connection between these factors and the “Brain Drain” we have been experiencing throughout our history? Could there also be a connection between these factors and the general lack of initiative and motivation we hear so much about from bosses? Consider the case that follows:

In a large (over 600 employees) Lebanese organization an individual is hired to lead a department that offers services to the organization as a whole. The individual is full of enthusiasm during the first two months during which there is a lot of new knowledge to acquire, new people to meet and new systems to learn. By the end of those two months, the individual is ready to start the process of implementation of the action plan developed for the realization of the department’s mission.

A very minor part of the action plan included the installation of coat hangers in the offices and the purchase of a few key references. Not having been given a budget, the new manager had to seek approval for these small requirements (under L.L. 500,000). Approval entailed writing a short proposal stating the purpose of the items requested and submitting it for approval by two other individuals, before any action could be taken by the purchasing department. The entire process took about six weeks.

The major task of getting approval for the overall plan was more complex. This has to be seen by the highest authority in the organization before it could be implemented. Quite understandably, the authority figure was very, very, very, busy indeed since virtually all matters both great and small had to be seen and approved by him. Moreover, the person directly concerned did not have access to the boss. The case had to be understood and reported by another manager who was a layer above the new department head, but one layer lower that the boss. Two appointments previously scheduled to study the project of our new and enthusiastic manager had been postponed due to the intervention of matters of higher priority.

Meanwhile, four months later, the determination and drive of our newly hired individual began to wane. That individual put on a bold face, kept busy with daily routines and read extensively in order to make good use of the waiting time. Each day the same question was raised, “Has the project been approved?” The answer invariably came, “Well, the boss is extremely busy and he has not been able to give it his full attention yet. Maybe tomorrow or next week.”

The new manager had plenty of time to question the wisdom of changing jobs. Were there no challenging jobs that allowed for a minimum of autonomy? Needless to say, six months later motivation was at a low ebb and our new manager was beginning to get acclimatized to the culture of the big organization.

How seriously should we take the boss? Very, very seriously indeed. In fact, look at who the boss is before you leap. The culture of the organization he or she leads will generally be reflective of that boss’s assumptions about superior-subordinate relationships.

4 Customer Centric Culture Building Blocks

It’s popular to tout customer-centricity, yet it’s very difficult to consistently demonstrate. The word centric means having a specific thing as the focus of attention and efforts. Customer-centric means that concerns other than the customer’s well-being are in the background while the customer stays in the foreground.

That may seem simple enough, yet reality proves the elusiveness of customer-centricity. In Accenture’s Delivering the Promise study, 75% of executives viewed their customer service as above-average, while 59% of their customers reported their experience with these companies’ service as somewhat to extremely dissatisfying. Likewise, in CMO Council’s Customer Affinity study, half the companies said they are extremely customer-centric, but only a tenth of their customers agreed.

The building blocks of customer-centric culture are communication, skills, accountability and systems.

1. Communication. The vision and values that top management communicates, both verbally and behaviorally, set the tone and direction. What top management focuses on guides the thinking and efforts of the entire organization. The key is consistency: at every opportunity, continually communicate the necessity of making it easier and nicer for customers to get and use solutions. Consistency occurs in formal and informal meetings, written correspondence, external messages, and in every business process and every management ritual such as performance reviews, annual operating plans, performance dashboards, etc. Consistency builds trust and passion, which are necessary ingredients for true customer-centricity.

At Amazon.com, founder Jeff Bezos once began a meeting by announcing that an empty chair at the table represented the customer. Throughout the meeting, the executives were compelled to include the customer in the discussion, as if present. This became a habit – the group’s way of thinking and doing.

2. Skills. Customer-centric values and vision must be supported by proficiency in related technical and soft skills. Examine competency requirements for everyone – not just customer-facing roles – relative to your customer-centric values and vision. This includes channel partners, suppliers, and other external entities. Proficiency is the vital link between strategy and execution.

At Nordstrom, employees are selected on their capabilities to anticipate and meet people’s needs. They’re encouraged to try new approaches to selling and customer service, with the mantra use good judgment in all situations giving them a tremendous sense that they’re trusted to always do right by the customer.

3. Accountability. What gets rewarded gets done – whether the rewards are tangible or intrinsic. Interestingly, intrinsic rewards have proven to be more powerful in adjusting a group’s ways of thinking and doing. Risk tolerance and penalties also determine the degree to which customer-centricity takes root. Above all, monitor cause-and-effect and also perceptions of fairness in terms of logic and equity; these elements are pivotal to success.

At Enterprise Rent-a-Car, customer sentiment is measured at the rental office level. Only employees in offices that score at or above the overall company average are eligible for promotion, raises or bonuses. At EMC, achieving the target for their leading indicator of customer sentiment, system availability, is a go/no-go determinant of the bonus for the entire company.

4. Systems. Systems-thinking means acknowledging the big picture and linkages between its components. Scrutinize your business policies and procedures and tools for their contribution or detraction from the goal of making it easier and nicer for customers to get and use solutions. Systems include formal and informal inter-department communication and interactions and handoffs, and connections outside the enterprise.

At Dell, SVP of customer service Dick Hunter asked employees to send him notes about the inconsistent and dumb things the company was doing. Combining this input with customer’s verbatim comments to their call center led to significant changes in the customer experience.

Motives are at the heart of true or false customer-centricity. Customer-centricity as priority number one must permeate the entire business, and be un-challenged by other concerns as the organization’s primary focus of attention and efforts. All other goals are more likely to fall into place with consistent customer-centricity.