Strong Corporate Culture: A Foundation for Accelerating Performance

cartoon illustrating the difficulty of changing a strong corporate culture

A strong corporate culture may indeed be difficult to change but, if you want to boost business and people performance, it may be just what you need to do.

Corporate culture has been misconstrued recently to mean everything from being a “happy” or “fun” work environment to a great place to work. We define a strong corporate culture differently.

A Strong Corporate Culture Defined
We believe culture drives the majority of behavior at an organization. Your workplace culture symbolizes the heartbeat of your company. It represents the set of norms, values, underlying assumptions and practices that guide workforce behavior and it is unique to every company.

More simply, culture is the way business gets done on a day-to-day basis. Our organizational alignment research found that culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performance in terms of revenues, profits, customers and employee engagement.

Can a Workplace Culture Be Too Strong?
The short answer is Yes!  The longer answer is it depends.  We measure culture on three levels.  For two of the three levels it is difficult to make the culture too strong. For the other level, too strong of a culture can spell disaster.

1.  Cultural Health.
Think of organizational health as the corporate values and behaviors that are consistently lived across an organization.  In general, organizations strive to be healthy, and people want to work in a healthy environment.

While it is difficult for an organization to be too healthy, a company must be healthy enough to set the stage for a strong corporate culture that drives high performance.

2.  Cultural Performance.
The next ingredient of a strong corporate culture is your performance environment.  We believe that people change when their environment changes.  We also believe it is a leader’s job to create the circumstances to consistently get the most out of their people in a way that is aligned with the organization’s core values, behaviors and strategies.

At this level of culture, it is certainly possible for the culture to be “too strong.”

In fact if you push for greater levels of performance without having commensurate levels of clarity, meaning and accountability, your performance pressure will most likely create decreased performance.  A leader applying the wrong amount of pressure in the wrong ways can render an entire organization ineffective.

Great leaders know when and where to apply performance pressure to get the most out of their people.

3.  Cultural Alignment.
The third, and often the least effectively used, cultural level is the alignment of your culture with your strategy.  The goal is to design a purposeful culture that is 100% in line with moving your business forward.

Similar to cultural health, it is difficult to make this level too strong in terms of cultural alignment.

The Four Steps to Create a Strong Corporate Culture

  1. Define the Desired Culture
    Create a common and organization-specific definition of culture, identify the current and most critical cultural beliefs needed to accomplish the goals, and establish a set of communication tools that address how to think about doing the work, not just what work needs to be completed.
  2. Assess the Current Culture
    Identify the gaps between the current and needed culture, identify cultural areas which have the greatest strategic and performance impact, and establish metrics to track progress and the success of the transformation.
  3. Create a Plan to Close the Key Culture Gaps
    Prepare people leaders to become culture ambassadors, cascade and translate strategic goals and their level of cultural alignment, address organizational health issues which may create road blocks, and create action plans to create alignment.
  4. Close the key Culture Gaps
    Identify and prepare change agents, establish accountability alignment targets, establish monthly tracking metrics for key rate of change, people, operational, customer, and financial metrics, and create recognition and rewards for key workgroups.

If you want to learn more about the different levels of a strong corporate culture, download 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture Strategy

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LSA is an instrumental training outsourcing partner in helping us to build management capacity and strategically invest in our people. Their flexibility, depth, and breadth of expertise allows us to deliver top quality solutions that are directly tied to key business plans. Their ability to custom design, deliver, and evaluate our Management Curriculum has been excellent. They are true business partners and a pleasure to work with.

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Hyperion

We partnered with LSA to pilot a customized behavioral interviewing program to help ensure that we continue to hire the best and brightest as we continue to rapidly scale. LSA’s ability to understand our business and our unique culture combined with their desire to ensure that the best practices framework truly fits our performance environment and is highly adopted by our people is a real blessing. Most other firms want to just ‘give you training.’ Not LSA, they are focused on helping me hit our hiring forecasts and attract A players.

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AKQA

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LSA’s Employee Engagement Consulting and Survey work has provided critical visibility into: how well our people are holding up under the general economic environment, as well as, the specific challenges that face biotechnology companies in their efforts to discover and develop new medicines; their level of alignment and commitment to XOMA’s Vision and mission critical strategies; how leadership practices and management systems support an environment that engender commitment, and the specific actions that our leaders can take to improve on areas that are important to our people. I highly recommend LSA’s employee engagement solutions.

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We consider LSA Global our outsourced learning and development partner. We worked closely with LSA to customize a management development program to meet our growing business needs. I would highly recommend LSA to any company wanting to deliver quality learning solutions.

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We have been able to utilize LSA’s extensive network of top-notch resources to leverage our investment in employee development. The result has been the cost effective and highly efficient delivery of quality educational and management training programs.

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Vice President, Human Resources

The Next Generation Management Development courses have helped me communicate more effectively with my peers and teammates. By utilizing effective communication techniques such as clarifying and confirming, and asking open ended questions, I have been able to clarify and understand information in situations where I would have otherwise asked limited questions and made false assumptions.

Robert Breckner
Firmware Engineering Manager

LSA helped to meet the needs of my teams within a very narrow timeframe. My team walked away with highly useful management tools and practices. LSA saved us time in delivering the right solution for our specific needs.

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Director, Software Engineering, EPG

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Blackhawk Network

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