In my last blog post, I shared that organizational culture is a purposefully created concept that must be communicated from the top down consistently if you want cultural adoption and business success. Practically, though, how do you build and share an organizational culture across varied people, teams, time zones and geographic cultures? And, if your culture is focused specifically on quality, do you do anything different?
First, if you are in a position of influence, you are in the perfect place to drive the quality culture through the organization. One of the two most significant barriers to implementing any change or driving home best practices is lack of buy-in by senior management. If you are not senior management, you need to convert them fully to the quality culture vision. Bottom up and sideways are not methods that usually yield long-term success in cultural dissemination.
Second, as mentioned in my last blog post, the quality culture must be adopted across the entire organization – no silos, no hold-out teams or pockets of resistance – if you want to achieve your goals. If you are in senior management, avoiding silos will be easier, but not a given. Communication is important – what you communicate, when and how often. And, communication with engagement (think action) is more effective. No one likes lectures. And, more importantly, people don't do their best when they are not personally vested.
Many best practice writings suggest the top activities you might try in your efforts to build and share a quality culture. While you can read the entire book(s), the following guiding points should supply enough direction to keep us busy and will yield measurable success.
1. Ensure executives are involved and accountable for culture dissemination.
- If you are at the top, interact with other leaders – team members take their cue from you. If your relationships are inclusive, respectful and collaborative, this sets the tone for team cooperation and proactive collaboration.
- Identify the end-state (goals) for your quality culture and then communicate the measures that indicate success at incremental steps.
2. Combine top-down communication and collaborative engagement methods.
- Create a culture of continuous improvement with supportive team evaluations and rewards.
- Empower everyone to submit suggestions for improvements and reward participation publicly.
- Praise learning from trial and failure, rather than punishing all mistakes.
3. People matter more than measurements.
- Review hiring practices – cultural fit should be a consideration weighed as heavily as skills and aptitude. Excited, engaged employees that “get” the quality culture will be happier and will perform better.
- Recruit team members who believe in the quality culture to create momentum on the ground – to communicate the culture through their actions and decisions. Avoid silos and reach out to these people wherever they are in the organization. The more proselytes, the better.
- Provide cross-functional training programs, not just for new hires, but for all team members, at regular intervals. Cross-functional cultural training provides critical visibility for each functional group as to why each group's actions and decisions matter and how everyone in the value chain works together to execute successfully.
And – do you do anything differently if your culture is focused specifically on quality? No. The methods and actions are the same—only the what, the content, of your communication changes.
An eclectic mix of books I have found useful in considering organizational culture: Ari Weinzweig's Zingerman's Guide to Giving Great Service, Bo Burlingham's Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, and Dan Pontefract's Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization.