Ravi Kathuria: How to tell if you have overlooked your culture and if it needs changing

Ravi Kathuria, Founder and President, Cohegic Corp.

Your company has a critical aspect that could help it succeed extraordinarily or fail miserably — corporate culture. Your company may have the best developed mission, vision, goals and strategy, and yet it may fail without the right matching culture. Culture is a crucial part of the engine of your company. Without the right culture your organization will not move at the speed you need and want.

Culture is the culmination of how everyone in the organization from management to front-line employees behave and think. Culture reflects the combination of conduct and mindset in your organization and there are many different forms.

Companies have many different types of culture. Some companies are laidback and slow to change, while others are hyperactive and ready to move at the slightest change in the marketplace. Some companies have a fun culture, others a more serious culture. Look at the culture in startup companies. It is quite different than companies that have been around for 100 years.

Cultural differences exist in other ways too. Some companies are sales-driven. These companies are experts at deal making and thrive on it. Others are operationally driven, with sales competencies and processes taking a back seat. In some companies, various business units compete against each other for financial and human resources, while at other companies, business units work closely together to create a seamless entity. In some companies excessive office politics is part of the culture.

Lack of a conscious culture

Every company has a culture — either it is explicit or implicit. Most often companies develop a certain type of culture without conscious design. Companies focus on developing their mission, vision, goals and strategies, but rarely do they stop and think about the specific culture they want to cultivate. You as a leader, must realize the importance of cultivating the right culture, and then help your organization cultivate it.

Cultural challenge

Failure to change employee mindsets and set ways engrained by organizational culture is often the reason why mergers and acquisitions fail. It is also the reason many new CEOs fail to succeed. Cultural disconnect is a recipe for disaster. You have to take charge and make sure your people fit your culture or your culture fits your people.

Developing culture

You cannot develop culture by edict. A memo from the CEO does not establish the culture. How do you change the behavior and mindset of people, and change it in such a manner that behaviors do not revert back? I hope you can appreciate developing the right culture is a huge challenge. Culture is driven by the tone set at the top. The organization watches carefully and takes its cues from how the leaders think and act. Therefore leaders have to be mindful. If you have raised children, then you know, kids do not do what parents ask them to do, kids do what they see their parents do.

Culture decision

The right culture for your company depends on your mission, core management philosophies, vision and strategies. If your core business model is product leadership, then your culture has to encourage and celebrate innovation. If your new vision is hyper-growth, then your culture has to change to encourage risk taking in new products and markets. You cannot achieve a new hyper-growth vision without asking the organization to change its thinking and its mindset.

Conscious culture

As a leader, you need to take the time to understand and crystallize the right culture for your organization that is in-sync with its mission, business model, vision and strategies. Then you need to lead by example, changing your behavior and mindset to reflect the desired culture. And, you need to follow through to ensure your management team and employees imbibe the new culture.

Ravi Kathuria is president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting, executive coaching and sales coaching firm. He is president of the Houston Strategy Forum and is a recognized thought leader who has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, WorldNews, and has also been featured on CBS Radio and the “BusinessMakers Show.” He is the author of the highly acclaimed leadership parable, “The Coherent Company: Drive coherence across mission, vision, goals, strategy, execution & culture to unleash performance.”

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