Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
This case study presents our concept and principles for sustainable corporate culture development as an example. We have implemented this for several companies from different industries.
The triggers for such an initiative can be manifold. Some examples:
- Radical changes in the market challenge large parts of the portfolio
- New people in leadership positions with different ideas about leadership/culture
- Dissatisfaction among employees and, as a consequence, high staff turnover
- Difficulties in finding new talents and inspiring them for the company
Step 1: Clarification of the task and setting aims
At the beginning of every project, the task needs to be clarified and aims defined.
If there are several clients (e.g. several managing directors), it is crucial to work out a common formulation of goals.
The focus is always on the purpose – why are we doing this? What do we want to achieve at the end of the project? And how can we recognise this in concrete terms? This common goal forms the basis for all further steps.
Step 2: Values and leadership principles
Once the goal has been clarified, the next step is to work out with the management team (usually the management/board + first management level) what leadership and cooperation should look like in the company.
The basis for this is formed by values, i.e. the question to the leaders: “What values are important to us in terms of leadership and cooperation?”. These are collected, reflected upon and prioritised.
From this, the leadership principles are then derived in the next step. These are based on observable behaviour – i.e. “How can we tell that we are behaving by our values?”
This process step happens in a workshop and usually lasts two days – sometimes longer. As a counsellor and coach, it is our task – in addition to facilitating the process – to create an atmosphere where all participants can communicate as openly and trustingly as possible.
Step 3: Implementation
Once there is a commitment to the values and leadership principles, the next step is implementing them in the company. Ultimately, each first-level manager must determine how the values and leadership principles can be implemented in their environment.
Of course, this is not a one-way communication but a dialogue. Obtaining and incorporating feedback appreciatively into the further process is an essential success factor.
Step 4: Feedback, reviews and ongoing development
Corporate culture is not a constant but is constantly evolving and subject to continuous change.
Giving space to the topic of culture is, therefore, a critical leadership task. Consequently, the perceptions and observations on the development of the leadership culture should be reflected regularly (at least once a month) in the different leadership levels. This can happen, for example, as part of team meetings that take place anyway.
The culture in an organisation develops in many small steps. Staying with it and focusing on sustainability measures are crucial success factors.
Corporate culture is not developed in a workshop. Instead, it is about daily living and reflecting on the values and leadership principles.
Managers naturally play an essential role in this. Instead of talking about values, they should be exemplified and made tangible by the employees. The decisive factor is how the employees perceive this.
Feedback loops, e.g. in the form of “real” feedback, are an essential instrument for this. Personnel development measures, e.g. leadership training or coaching, which are oriented towards the needs of the people and the organisation, also support the entire process.