Every organisation is different, with a unique history, background and way of operating. It’s only natural therefore that whilst many companies will share similar philosophies and processes, no two cultures will ever be exactly the same. Rather, culture is a product of an organisation’s people, processes, history and location, and it really is impossible to replicate.

It is also immensely powerful and influences all the decisions and actions made within the organisation. Fail to understand it and take it into account and your strategy is unlikely to succeed.

How do you create an adaptive High Performance Culture?
At a time of rapid change, creating and sustaining an adaptive High Performance Culture is crucial to success. It is important to start with leadership and management, as these are key to determining and reinforcing culture. Therefore, it’s imperative that companies assess the behaviours that define and reinforce culture, and if change is needed, focus on the steps to affect a positive outcome.

There are two steps involved in creating an adaptive High Performance Culture. Firstly, you need to identify where you are now, and secondly map this against the four elements necessary to achieve a high performance culture:

  1. Engaged and aligned staff
  2. Satisfied customers
  3. Financial success of the business
  4. High levels of integrity and propriety across the organisation. The recent Volkswagen case demonstrates what happens when businesses fail to meet the high standards expected by shareholders, regulators and customers.

Without each of these four elements, high performance is unsustainable.

Measuring where your culture is
To identify if your culture needs to change to become more high performing, it first needs to be measured. This is essentially the equivalent of a regular medical check-up to see where you are.

This exercise can’t be based on guesswork or what senior managers think. Feedback can only come from staff and should ideally build on existing employee engagement measures. Staff need to be given the freedom and means to clearly describe the relationship between culture, performance and leadership behaviours. In particular, you need to find out how aligned they are to corporate strategy and values. Companies also need to discover both the overall cultural profile across the organisation as well as any differences between particular departments, countries or subsidiaries.

Involving employees in this way is essential as it creates a common understanding and vocabulary around culture, and increases self-awareness around everyone’s role in making change happen. Focusing on staff insight will tell you what behaviours are creating and reinforcing your current culture, and the impact your leadership is having on culture and performance in driving change.

Culture diagnostic tools can be a big help here, but they must be easy to use by all to give a full picture of what staff are thinking. They also need to be flexible and able to track progress. One method of identifying current culture is to collect feedback from employees based on a series of statements and evaluate these using a specific rating scale. The statements should assess leadership behaviours and how these impact upon engagement, performance and culture.

This should help identify what the prevailing cultural type is within an organisation. Is it a controlling, creative, competitive or co-operative environment? How does this vary between subsidiaries or departments?

Moving towards a High Performance Culture
Taking a cultural snapshot, means that companies can track where they are now, in comparison with where they think they need to be to achieve their strategic business objectives and become high performing. It also sets a benchmark for a repeatable process that links culture to business strategy and outcomes. Used in this way, tools can help increase employee collaboration and also enable the exchange of best practice throughout the organisation and support transformational cultural change.

Using this straightforward model provides a way of making culture tangible and understandable, establishes a common base line and gives everyone involved a means of discussing it. Furthermore, it helps identify clear areas for change – which can then be addressed directly by the company itself. By putting the organisation in control of its results, it ensures that improvements are focused on its particular needs and requirements, and can be adopted at a pace that fits with budgets and objectives. Results can be integrated and compared with other performance metrics, such as employee engagement, customer satisfaction or brand reputation.

When assessing results, it’s key to discover the impact of leadership behaviour and how it manifests itself on the everyday actions of staff. There could well be best practice that can be learned from different departments or regions that can be shared across the business.

Making culture tangible
In the past companies considered ‘brand’ to be intangible, but it is now measured and included on balance sheets. Given its vital importance, it is very possible that in the near future culture will be equally tangible and recognised as what makes an organisation high performing. It’s therefore imperative that organisations take the steps needed to understand their culture and look to improve it moving forward.

To find out more about how to create an adaptive High Performance Culture in your organisation download this Questback whitepaper.

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