Culture and Getting Things Done

by Howard Shore, Date: Aug 09, 2011

Culture and Getting Things Done

Do you ever wonder why some organizations seem to implement new ideas with ease while others fail? Or why very competent and successful people seem to fail miserably when they move from one organization to another?  Or how a very experienced and talented consultant can implement a best practice in one organization and get rave reviews and then go to another organization and come out looking incompetent? Well I have! Being a person that takes a lot of pride in getting results and one that hates to lose, I have been thinking about these questions throughout my career.

I have concluded that the most important question that must be answered when you take on a client is whether the company culture is right for what the CEO wants (or claims to want) done. This is tricky because what got you in the door may not get you to the desired result. Everyone has their own belief systems, including me. This is about determining what someone else’s values need to be in order to get on the right path. If someone’s values do not support what needs to get done, they cannot achieve their goals. There is misalignment.

Many entrepreneurs run into this problem. Imagine you are entrepreneur that prides yourself on avoiding structure and process. You essentially like things to be loose and to have a family environment. However, your belief/value systems don’t allow you to price your goods or services competitively. Maybe these values and beliefs cause you to lose market share and/or not be profitable. In addition, you and a few others in the organization have to do everything because many of your original employees are not equipped to do their jobs. Training will not change this fact, but because you feel like they’re part of your family, you do not want to fire them. Your organization now needs a complete overhaul to become more profitable, or maybe worse, to survive.

In our observation, failure to achieve business plans, lack of organizational effectiveness, and poor results from consulting engagements, training initiatives or internal changes lead back to the CEO.  The most important factor that affects the strength of leadership and management in an organization is culture. The CEO decides the overall tone and direction of the culture and is most responsible for driving it. Further, that culture can and will determine the strength and effectiveness of the leadership and management in an organization. An effective culture can multiply or diminish the effectiveness of people.  For example, you can bring in leaders that have a track record of building and instilling disciplined process, structure, and systems in a company.  However, if people can go around them to the CEO, and the CEO himself will violate those disciplined processes, structures and systems, this will undermine and diminish the others he has brought in. Eventually, in order to survive in such an organization, the new disciplined employees either quit out of frustration or stop fighting and conform to reduce their stress and frustration. At a minimum, the time it takes to drive change in the organization is significantly elongated, and talented individuals that learn this about your organization stay away. This leads to minimized results and progress of the organization. In the end, we find the CEO will blame the leaders and managers for failing to achieve the goals they were hired to accomplish and replace them and repeat the cycle.

In conclusion if you want change in your organization you must first take assessment of your culture to understand how it must change. The second step is to understand how the CEO must behave differently to make this possible. Lastly, the rest of the executive team must follow suit. The CEO needs to show commitment and support to all initiatives. Until the CEO makes the commitment to shift his behavior and drive a cultural change from the top, change will not occur.  It is a simple case of “monkey see, monkey do.”  More importantly, one of the hardest things for owners and CEOs to accept is that anything they do or say is magnified 10 times.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential through business consulting, executive coaching, sales force development, training, and employee selection. To learn more about him or his firm, please contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or