January 20, 2023
by John O. Burdett
If the brand promise doesn’t live inside the organisation it can’t live in the marketplace. A disappointed employee is a disappointed customer.
A business exists primarily to create tomorrow’s customer. Profit is obviously important but it’s ultimately the outcome of doing the former well. The organisation’s culture delivers both the outward-looking (why buy from us?) and the inward-facing value propositions (why work for us?). Of the two, the latter is the more important. If the brand promise doesn’t live inside the organisation it can’t live in the marketplace.
If employees don’t support the organisation’s promise within the customer space, it matters not how strong the product or service offering is. Brand simply means Better Results And No Disappointment. A disappointed employee is a disappointed customer. And based on the business sector, the multiplier effect (number of customers a market-facing employee can influence) may well be 50, 100 or even 1,000 to one.
It’s easy to become obsessed about “what we need to do differently.” Indeed, the enthusiasm to create “the new” can easily obscure elements of the culture that have historically made (and currently make) the business successful. Someone who doesn’t read is no better off than someone who can’t read. And an organisation that loses touch with what makes it special is no better off than an organisation that doesn’t have anything that makes it special.
- Why do people buy what we deliver?
- Why do our best people stay?
- What is our core competency?
- What has made us successful to this point?
- What is our distinct point of differentiation?
- What do we do that the competition doesn’t?
- What is sacrosanct?
- How do we make money?
And the answer to that last question isn’t always clear.
None of this is to suggest that the organisation’s distinct competitive advantage is written in stone. Today’s winning offering is tomorrow’s commodity. And customers certainly don’t want a broader offering if it takes away from mastery in what you do best.
Culture isn’t an adjunct, a sideshow, or a sandbox for those with a love for all things abstract. Culture is real, practical and central to what makes a business endure.
For the business to sustain, the culture has to attract top talent, retain outstanding leaders, provide the agility needed for different strategic scenarios to be realised, create the space for innovation, move best practice across the organisation, accelerate learning, nurture risk, empower those closest to the customer to make key decisions, ensure that the environment is a priority and align the organisation’s resources with why the customer buys – today and tomorrow. Results will follow.
Culture Imperative: If you can’t quickly and succinctly describe your business’s distinct point of difference then (1) you can’t protect it; and (2) your business is about to be overtaken by a competitor that can.
This article is an extract from “The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture“, © Orxestra® Inc.
John O. Burdett is founder of Orxestra® Inc. He has extensive international experience as a senior executive. As a consultant he has worked in more than 40 countries for organisations that are household names. John has worked on organisation culture for some of the world's largest organisations. His ongoing partnership with TRANSEARCH International means that his thought leading intellectual property, in any one year, supports talent management in many hundreds of organisations around the world. Get in touch with John O. Burdett »