Zealously guarding the proposition that defines us

Posted on August 27, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Over the weekend, I was part of a discussion with my colleagues about the proposition that defined the company that I worked for – Culture.

One of the world’s leading public relations consultancy, the firm is constantly competing for talents and clients with the other global agencies.

One of the definitive propositions that we have been selling all these while is ‘culture’.

It is not uncommon to hear a person from our firm telling our clients or prospectives that the firm had an excellent culture that breeds creativity through close inter-team coorporation, bonding and multi-racial/ethnic consultants. The environment, free from politics, allowed individuals to ‘raise the bar’ as and when it was required, thus bring the firm constantly to new levels of service standards.

Yet, I found that many in the company have already taken this aspect for granted.

I argued that if culture was the ‘make or break’ point for the firm, then it should be zealously guarded to ensure that the culture extends, even when staff leaves the firm and new members join the firm. This, I found, was terribly lacking.

I suppose this phenomenon is not localised to any particular firm. Many companies probably assume that culture evolves along with the people it hires and the staff it employs.

I feel, however, that senior management have a very big role to play to ensure that the organisation maintains a particular culture that it wishes to have, particularly if it’s to be treated as a winning proposition.

Several ways I think top management can play a part:

Walk the talk  – Culture is not built by paying lip-service to it. If senior management believes in an ‘open door’ policy and reduce the power distance between staff and management, then effort has to be put in to go down to the grounds to rally the staff and encourage a two-way communications process. If management doesn’t support ‘politics’, then the senior management staff must refrain from participating in one.

Open communications build trust – Trust is ever so important in any particular oragnisation. Managment must communicate openly with the staff in order to win their trusts. Abeit the additional workload and much time spent, it is important for management to constantly share the vision, goal for the firm. Intentions and rationale behind actions must be communicated.

Set clear principles and stamp violations – Whilst people always say that a particular company has got ‘good culture’, the definition of ‘good culture’ is subjective. Management needs to find time and spend effort to investigate and find the definition to ‘good culture’. Then set principles for all to follow. Principles must be meaningful and not words that are stringed together for the sake of doing it. Principles must be reviewed from time to time to ensure that it remains relevant. Any violations to these principles should be treated seriously and carefully.

Think strategically and holistically, not just about operations – Senior management is often caught up on the day-to-day operations that they fail to ‘take a step back’ to look at the firm strategically. This is especially so, when a firm is growing quickly and furiously. Where new staff enters and leave the firm, the dynamics of the firm changes. It affects people, and it is important to repeat, from time to time, the strategic direction that the firm is heading. Management needs to dig deep into any potential problems or if there is any suspicion of a problem arising. Investigate deeply and thoroughly to find the root problem and treat it there and then.

Senior management should not be the only people who maintains the culture of the firm, and individual members of the organisation has got a role to play. A bottom up approach can be the basis of how a culture is formed, but a top-down approach is needed to maintain the culture at where it is being set.



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