Organizations with strong cultures can spend decades putting together the elements that, when combined, create a compelling culture. These elements include a well-defined purpose, a commitment to the mission, articulation of core values and demonstration of guiding principles. Whether or not people embrace these elements and live them out daily in their work determines the strength of the culture.
One of my favorite authors is Jim Collins and, among others, he wrote a book entitled How the Mighty Fall. In his research, he discovered how great companies over time found themselves floundering and eventually failing. In many organizations, this fall begins with a slow, almost unnoticeable erosion of the culture. Leading a successful organization takes intentionality every single day. Without intentionality, culture slowly begins to erode. A lack of intentionality coupled with momentum accelerates the erosion until the foundation is no longer in place to uphold a compelling culture.
Leading a successful organization takes intentionality every single day. Click To Tweet
Are you wondering if there might be an erosion of culture within your organization? Here are signs that you may have a problem:
- People within the organization no longer connect with the reason the company is in business. Sure, every business, hopefully, wants to make money, but that is usually not the purpose. The purpose is about something bigger than any one individual and it’s about the difference that a business can make through its product or service. Companies with a compelling culture have a crystal-clear purpose. It’s the rallying cry for the organization. If a time comes when the leaders lose their way, they only have to return to their purpose to center themselves and find direction. If people lose their connection to the purpose, there’s a good chance the culture will erode.
- People within the organization forget who they serve. Without customers, clients, patients or students, most businesses could not exist. Those who are served by the business must be the most important focus of the organization. I love the quote, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” That’s true and I would add that not much happens until somebody is served. If the customers, clients, patients or students are not being served well, then the culture could be eroding.
- People within the organization do not feel respected by one another. When culture erodes in an organization, people don’t treat one another as valued team members with respect for differences. When culture is strong, people care about one another. When it’s weak, care for the work and the people slowly ebbs away.
- People within the organization do not pursue a future state. When culture is eroding, people lose sight of the vision. They lack passion for achieving the goals of the future. They show up to work day-to-day with little concern for what comes next.
- People within the organization relinquish the past. When culture erodes in an organization, people quit telling the stories about what originally brought success. They consider the past to be dated and irrelevant.
An organization with an eroding culture cannot succeed internally or externally. In order to correct this loss of focus, leaders must take the necessary steps to redirect and refocus. Here are a few steps to consider.