Having spent eighteen years in the same company I experienced multiple stages of their evolution under different brand names. I worked in the UK Cable industry. When I joined I was given a book called “Who’s who in the cable industry” and it contained over one hundred cable companies. I worked for Telewest Communications. When I left eighteen years later there was one, Virgin Media.
During this time and the different stages of the company there was a lot of talk about changing the culture. “We are changing and therefore we need to change our culture” was a typical phrase. People sat and waited for the immediate change. It didn’t come. What does it really mean to change your culture, why would you even consider it and how do you achieve it?
Here is a slightly different way of thinking about culture change. Lead the change by changing your customer experience.
Typically when a company talks about changing their culture it is to support a directional change in their ambition and strategy. This may be linked to a change in ownership driven by a merger or acquisition. It may be a company in a turnaround situation after years of failure. It could be the launch of an innovative new product that requires a different way of thinking. Culture change as a ‘thing’ is pretty intangible and that’s why people struggle with it. What they are actually talking about is changing the way people act and behave.
Changing people. That’s tough.
A company can rise or fall as a result of its people. The things people do and the way they behave drives business success. A culture is created over time by the way they are led, the way they are recruited, the way they are treated, the way they are measured, the way they are rewarded. Slapping a new logo on the front of a building and saying “we’re changing” does not change a culture or the people that create it. It’s also not something that is achievable overnight. I’ve been there. Once the directional change in business ambition and strategy is understood, you need to act to change your culture.
There are a number of things you can do. Clear internal communication and evangelism from the leadership team is critical, but this is also where your brand becomes a real asset and supporting tool to help drive the changes you seek.
The key ingredient to changing a culture is for people to do things differently.
This is where I believe using your brand to create and deliver an irresistible customer experience can really help drive action that will change your culture.
Here are a few tips.
Define your brand. Clearly define your positioning in your marketplace, your brand values and personality. Do this collaboratively with the Executive Management team, then position your brand internally as a tool to initiate change and deliver against your business ambitions.
Use your brand to drive your customer experience. Map your existing customer journey. Use your brand to work out how you want customers to feel at each stage then create the aspirational future customer experience that will deliver this. Doing this cross functionally will build momentum.
Align your people behind your aspirational customer experience. Does your organisational structure support what you want to deliver? Do people understand the part they play in delivering the experience and how to get there? What does the organisation need to do to deliver the new experience?
Let people get on and deliver it.
There are a lot of additional activities that should be considered as part of your culture change and these are well documented - recruitment, training, personal development, reward and recognition, process improvement, communication, collateral changes, visual identity alterations, culling projects that don’t support your ambitions etc. However, I’d argue that acting to make changes to your customer experience, based on your brand, will fast-track what your people have to do and the way they have to behave and therefore your company culture will begin the change you desire.