Marketing: Change through culture
By Scott Francis
Repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results is often considered the definition of insanity. Why then do leaders expect their organization to adapt and change strategies just because they say it should? To get an organization to change you have to change the culture. To change the culture, you have to change the way things are done.
What is culture? Culture is rules that are not written down. Think of a road with a 55 mile per hour speed limit. It could not be clearer. Fifty-five miles per is the fastest you are supposed to go. If the person in front of you is going 63 and the person behind you is going 63 you will be expected to travel at 63 MPH. That is sort of the unwritten rule of the road, or culture of the highway.
If the rules are not enforced in a strict sense the culture becomes the norm. In cities that get to be known as speed traps traffic has a way of going at exactly the posted speed. Expect what you inspect.
In most organizations there are leaders by position and there are leaders by skill or cult of personality. The two types of leadership are not always found in the same person. To effect culture, you don’t have to have all the leaders on board. Initially usually 25-35% is enough to start a cultural shift if they are the leaders, formal and informal, who are respected in the organization.
If you want to make your place a friendlier place to work and more welcoming for your customers you might start with one of two key people welcoming guest by simply saying “Welcome to Bob’s Bar” when they enter the bar. If these are key leaders within the bar others will see what they are doing and soon follow. Leading in this fashion will make it easier to change the culture rather than accepting the old way of ignoring customers until the bartender gets around to serving them. In time, just like the average speed on the highway finds a norm, the culture of welcoming customers will take effect.
If you want to change the sales culture in your organization to be more responsive to prospective customers so you can convert more leads you could start by responding to each lead within two hours of when they are received instead of waiting until the end of the day or the following week to contact them. Once the expected response time is made known other sales people traveling on your hi-way will begin to respond at the same speed.
Different parts of an organization can have different cultures. Unless all of the leaders in each part of the organization are on the same page you might have a second shift culture or a remote location culture that is different from what you are trying to establish or change. If someone says “that’s not way we do it on night shift,” then you probably have a cultural problem that needs to be addressed. In those situations, you need to seek out the leaders or individuals who can influence change and make sure that they see what is happening in other parts of the organization so they can see the benefit and want to be part of the group. Most people will go along to get along. They don’t want to be different from the rest.
By finding those people who can lead by example and inspecting what they do your chances of getting successful change in an organization are dramatically increased. In some cases there will be people who no matter what will resist change. When that happens, you have to be willing to change the people.
To make sure the culture change sticks and does not resort back to the way it was you need to be constantly vigilant in reinforcing the good behaviors that you want to be in effect and correct those that are not. Cultural creep happens and there is a tendency for people to think that you might just have the new management flavor of the month and that “this too shall pass” if you don’t stay on top of things.
In retail an acronym that I like to use is G.O.L.D.- G.O.L.D. stands for grand opening look daily. If you want to get the gold you need to have G.O.L.D. It is easy to let things slip if you let them. After six months of being open it is common for the floors not to be as clean, the restrooms dirtier, assorted signs accumulated on the walls, doors etc. If you want to have that grand opening look take a picture of what it looks like when you open or when you have just gone through a major cleaning to get your place the way you want it. Hold this up as the standard.
Don’t let the culture slip away so it is acceptable to only empty the rest room garbage every third of fourth day. Do this with all of the key metrics in your organization and have the leaders lead by example to let people know what is expected. In time you will change and maintain the culture you are looking for to get the change you need in your organization.
About the Author: Scott Francis is the author of the book “Marketing is About making Money” and president of Topline Development LLC, a business consulting company that helps start-ups and larger growing companies identify and solve major strategic issues. To learn more about Topline Development LLC, contact Scott at Scott@ToplineDevelopment.com