The Business-Technology Weave

Jun 30 2010   7:46AM GMT

Creating and Sustaining the Success Culture

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott


How do we create a success culture?  How do we sustain the successful organization and make it ever more successful? 


First, we must maximize and make fully understandable these existing fundamentals in your organization: 


¨  Mission

¨  Values

¨  Beliefs

¨  Standards. 


It is not our intent here to create a business plan, to write sample mission statements, or to provide a primer about values, etc.  Your organization, and the reader, understands these things and their importance in defining and sustaining the organization and its conduct of business.  Rather, it is our duty here to re-examine the “obvious” – what reflection is there in these areas regarding success?  For, in looking at the loose standards of some of those around us, in looking at the mistake-prone organizations, or the hierarchies with their ethically challenged reputations, we realize that we have to make a conscious decision to be different. 


Those others certainly have missions, values, beliefs, and standards.  But if they see value in cutting corners, if they have a belief that inflating profits will yield positive business outcomes, if their standards are ill-defined or deliberately loose, then there is no service to the mission.  There is no true accommodation for the idea of success.  Sustained, long-term success (the only kind that counts) is achieved by being honest and in matching actions to realities.  The success culture starts with this honesty, which inspires trust, cooperation, and good faith activity.  This is critically important when Business and IT engage within the organization.  We therefore need to groom (mentor, coach, train) so that no one has to assume anything regarding the culture – they will know.  As things stand now, how many people can you scratch in your organization – querying them on matters of business culture – to yield a response with some semblance of:  “We have a culture of success”?  Try it.  If your leadership is not biasing the organization for success – what is it doing? 


Further, our stated mission, values, beliefs and standards will ensure that, if and when a gray area leads someone to wonder what a standard is, or be left to ponder what they “might get away with,” we have in place a culture that will groom them to know that excellence is the bar.  That the job, large or small, is to be done right.  They will disabuse themselves – and they will dissuade others – of any notion of entertaining an impropriety.  This is where you achieve true strength:  From the bottom up as individuals self-regulate; from the top down as example-setting, ethical leaders manage, mentor and train; and across the organization – or across organizations – as departments and agencies engage in good faith activity by virtue of solid reputations and trust.  Let’s look at some supports to this:


                            Supporting Success:   Mission; Values; Beliefs; Standards


Mission:  The idea of a mission would seem to be pretty obvious.  However, if you ask people on a random basis to articulate their organization’s mission, you may be surprised at the result.  There will be a degree of struggle in expressing the mission with accuracy and brevity.  Forget about any degree of comprehensiveness.  Even Business people can have trouble – but for support elements such as IT, there may be many people who fail to understand, or even care about, the overarching business mission. 


Every organization has a mission, and every reader’s organization has a mission statement.  The mission provides the answer as to why the organization is here.  An organization’s stated mission should include primary products and services, your service model (such as the importance of excellence, creativity, results, success, etc.), and markets.  Everyone in an organization should know what the organization’s mission is, understand it, and support it.  Remember that the mission statement is a ready handle in defining who you are – after the organization’s name, it is often the first exposure someone has to anything about your organization.  It communicates essential information to people, beginning with the people right in the organization – the employees.  It is the definition of your organization seen by clients, customers, members, prospects, potential employees, vendors, contractors, business partners, and any other interested party.  


Ensure your people know, understand, and support the mission.


Values:  A value is a belief, a principle, a quality, or a philosophy that has meaning and worth to the organization.  It also must have meaning and worth to the individual.  It is important to note that any organization will have formally defined values – but it will also have informal values. 


In recent surveys of business, the identification and implementation of values has been cited as the one of the greatest keys in the success of those organizations that thrive.  Values lead to direct action, quality of action, and appropriate treatment of people.  When looking at most successful organizations, we find that values are directly linked to their success.  For example, Sears places a high value on customer trust – in the 19th Century, customers in rural areas enjoyed a money-back guarantee on any returned product.  Can you imagine the comfort that that sort of trust engendered when ordering from a remote organization through a catalog in those days?  Sears, unlike many companies from that era, continues to exist and thrive today…


The Marriott’s value of standardization enabled it to efficiently duplicate its standard model hotel all across the country.  People on the road experienced a welcome familiarity. 


Coca-Cola’s value of their customers’ opinion and satisfaction allowed it to quickly recover from the wrong turn that “New Coke” represented. 



Your organization has a set of values in place – make certain that those values are effective, known, and understood.  The trick is not in “having” values:  the trick is to make certain they expand and occupy every corner and crevice of your operations, your supports, your management, your products, and your services.  In the case of our Weave, we can see that business values occupy the upper, overarching agenda.  IT values need to support and help fulfill business objectives.  One of the most obvious values today is the sustaining of continuous improvement.  Generally, the identification of an important value leads to discovery, and discussion, of other supporting values:  innovation, reliability, trust, confidence, truthfulness, and so forth.  At the same time, a discussion of values needs to identify gaps, or divides, between stated organizational values, and the full employ of those values in leveraging them to the ultimate mission. 


Beliefs:  Beliefs support values.  If your organization wants to value excellence, for example, people need to believe that excellence is worth striving for, is recognized, and is rewarded.  Further, it will be believed that excellence is appreciated by the customer, client, member, etc.  Vendors will acclimate quickly to your culture of excellence, and they will partner according to their natural sense of your expectation for excellence.  Beliefs yield confidence and trust (desirable values in and of themselves).  When people believe that others engage in good faith, and that the organization itself behaves in, and supports, good faith, we build value.  We begin to build a collective mental acceptance of truths, and conviction in them.  Again, think about defining your culture through mission, values, beliefs and standards:  don’t let it default to something you don’t want.  Beliefs directly support your mission. 


An important belief is that an organization is a team, rather than a collected set of competing silos; each complete with their own selfish agendas, competition for resources, negative belief-set, and poor expectations of the other “silos.”  By extension, allied organizations that have been tasked with a common mission must acquire the belief that they are a team in order to be at their united best.  Consider what your organization believes – truly believes.  Is your organization’s belief-set acceptable to you?  Consider the beliefs that you would like to instill in your organization, and the reality necessary to emplace and sustain those beliefs.


Standards:  A standard is a requirement, a level, or a degree of something.  Standards define and guide conduct.  They set benchmarks in the performance of systems and people.  They help to provide comparisons and measures in order to evaluate levels of things that lead to success.  Standards help to measure ‘success’ itself. 


Harboring a respect for standards is a value.  You value a degree, or level, of performance from employees – and from yourself.  You must meet and hopefully exceed a standard in order to certify the value of that performance.  Overall, your organization has a requirement of conduct – the level of conduct you require is a standard.  We manage and perform according to standards.


Standards should be a clear expression of our expectations:  We should know how our organization expects us to behave and interact with each other.  We should know how to resolve conflict.  We should have standards that support growth and progression for the right people.  Proper standards help us to leverage “human capital” to competitive advantage. 


Standards also help us to establish commonly accepted guides to productivity and quality.  A review of standard “best practices” in any field of endeavor will present essential standards for success.  A success culture both yields, and depends on, productivity.  Efficient and effective (quality) production of anything represents success:  whether it is production of new designs, production of output goods, producing better  service, producing more satisfied customers, producing more accurate performance appraisals – these all represent success. 


In-turn, success (successful productivity) yields pride in the organization, pride in what you do, confidence in a job well done, and it yields a positive model for future success.  Consider the business traveler’s laptop as an example:  the true standard is not to issue the laptop in a timely fashion (important enough, but easily done), it is not to vet the laptop as functional (also important), but rather the standard is to meet the business traveler’s need to access the organization’s network in order to successfully accomplish online work.  If you meet the true standard, the others are met.  The ultimate standard pulls everything else up.  This is why you have to solidify in your mind, and the minds of your staff, the ultimate, true standards to be met (and as necessary, exceeded) in each task, project, and endeavor.


The identification of ultimate business standards does not mean that you don’t need checklists or interim qualifiers/standards.  Indeed true standards support and lead to the establishment of those things:  “Hmm, if BusTraveler ‘A’ has ultimate need to work from City ‘Z’, then I need to test a laptop, issue it, and certify that BusTraveler ‘A’ knows how to use it.”  Recognize here that standards beget success. 


All of these things in your success culture help you develop a winning “people strategy” – which in turn helps your organization develop an overall competitive advantage.


In your Business-Technology Weave, maker certain that both the Business and IT folks have a clear articulation of Mission, Values, Standards and Beliefs.


June 30th:  On this day in 1936 Gone with the Wind was published.


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