In my opinion, the top three factors driving company success are:
1. Right People
2. Right Culture
3. Right Mission
in that order. The right people are the foundation of anything. It is always all about the people. Right people can operate well within a range of cultures. Great culture + wrong people doesn't work. Right people plus right culture, and I think you can do anything. Put the right mission on top of that and you are set up for maximum success.
So culture really matters. But what is culture anyway? The term was apparently first used by Cicero in the phrase 'cultura animi' meaning the 'cultivation of the soul'. Cultivation here is very much in the agricultural sense — it is all about growth. Culture is fundamentally about getting better over time, and the right culture is the fertile soil in which the right people succeed and prosper.
That ‘soil’ is the set of values and ambitions we have that we believe will make us better, that will allow us to grow and prosper. These beliefs, values, and ambitions guide our behaviors which in turn produce the successful outcomes we strive towards.
In short, culture is a shared way of being for a group of people that allows them to grow and succeed. The shared aspect of culture is central to it. It’s not a culture if one person in a group has one set of values and ambitions and the person next to them has a completely different set. Humans beings are at our best when we work together. We defend better, we hunt better, we build better, we educate better. Collaboration is in our very nature. But to do it effectively, we must be in sync with one another, and our shared culture is the best tool we have to ensure that we are in sync and working towards common purpose.
So what is that ambition we strive for? At the highest level, I believe people want to win. That is our driver. Now, different people will have a very wide range of views on what ‘winning’ means to them in their lives overall. But in a corporate setting, I would suggest there is probably a more cohesive view on what winning is: creating and delivering products and services for our industry better than anyone else, in turn delighting customers more than anyone else, and in turn being appropriately recognized and rewarded for that accomplishment. And we probably all want to feel that we are growing as individuals, feel proud that we treat other people decently, that we are making the world a better place, and having fun (enjoying what we do and the time we spend at work). So our culture should be the fertile soil that allows us to attain that form of winning.
Stay tuned for a series of posts in this blog to summarize a few core cultural themes plus some specifics about what I mean by each, with the goal (as always) of trying to incite some discussion and debate among all of you who read it...
Culture, part 2: Truth
Culture, part 3: Excellence
Culture, part 4: Agility
Culture, part 5: Confidence
Culture, part 6: Service
Culture, part 7: Leadership
Culture, part 8: Passion
Culture, part 9: Collegiality
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