It is not uncommon for many founders and leaders to believe it is either too early or too late in their companies’ journeys to start investing in culture. But the truth is that culture happens. If you have a company, culture will start happening right from the beginning, whether you intentionally design it or not. The big question, then, is not “when” but “how” culture will happen. Here are some insights on how to make sure your company’s culture doesn’t become a liability but is actually the silver bullet that allows you to succeed both in the market and inside your teams.
Essentially, culture happens on three different levels: thriving, aspiring, and mediocre or toxic. Thriving cultures are people and purpose-centric, and companies that champion this model lead with a highly engaged, productive, and creative workforce. Their high performers are committed to the company’s purpose and excited to bring their best to the table in order to make a difference. These types of strong cultures naturally attract and retain High Achievers: exceptional and talented performers who give their companies an edge both in the market and in the pursuit of driving positive change in the world.
However, unplanned cultures are most likely to become aspiring at best and mediocre or toxic at worst. Aspiring cultures might attract some High Achievers into their teams, but over time, it will not be easy to keep them fulfilled, engaged, and tapping fully into their talent. As a result, High Achievers will either leave their companies or become disengaged low-performers who will eventually end up feeling unaccomplished and let down. As for mediocre or toxic cultures, these suffer from extensive low engagement throughout the entire company, as not only it is impossible for them to attract High Achievers, but also, the decision of settling for mediocrity will lead to even lower commitment, productivity, and creativity levels from their team members.
As you might have noticed, if you were to think of your company as a skyscraper, then culture would be the foundation to a solid, steady, and reliable building. And, although highly unlikely, it is not impossible that an unplanned culture will become thriving. But, how do you scale a culture that you have not intentionally planned? And, how do you fix a problem in your company if you just let your culture happen rather than thoughtfully designing it? The key here is that if your company is a skyscraper, then cultural design is laying down the blueprint. Culture is a way to drive behavior, and designing your culture intentionally will allow you to know exactly what behaviors you need to amplify and how in order to scale your fast-growing company successfully. Alternatively, when things go wrong, a culture that was carefully planned will make it easier to find where the source of the problem is located and to work out a solution. If you lack the blueprint, though, trying to scale or to adjust your culture will be like trying to work on a building with no idea on where things are and how they function.
Like a skyscraper without a steady foundation, a company with an unplanned culture will be weak. And, as strong, thriving cultures attract top talent and awesome human beings, weak cultures are more likely to attract the wrong people for the wrong reasons: individuals who are not aligned with your company’s purpose and who will exclusively work and use your company towards their personal gain. A thoroughly designed cultural blueprint will allow you to minimize the risk of dealing with these toxic and destructive individuals and only bring in extraordinary people who believe in what you believe in and are committed to the same purpose as you are. Operating with an unplanned culture, on the other hand, will make it much easier for toxicity to permeate and spread throughout your entire organization, jeopardizing the future of the company.
The Takeaway – Culture Can Be Designed
Growing with an unplanned culture is a difficult and risky business, if not an impossible one to achieve. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Culture can be designed. However, it takes the decision and the courage to design it and to design it well. Culture has the potential to be your silver bullet: it drives behavior, and by doing so, it can attract remarkable human beings who will help your company achieve remarkable goals if you know how to empower them.
Over nearly twenty years, we have helped and seen fast-growing companies successfully multiply their workforces while keeping their current team members engaged and thriving, all through the magic of cultural design. On the understanding of the fact that culture impacts everything, from recruitment processes to internal rituals, from leadership philosophies to KPI’s, from product design to customer loyalty, thoroughly planning a people and purpose-centric culture allows companies to tick all these boxes and more: the cultural blueprint is the first step to mastering company culture and successfully scaling your company, overcoming unimaginable challenges and thriving into the future and beyond.