My project manager, Steve, is working on a project that requires him to help our client document their processes and then automate them. The organization is well established and have been doing it a certain way for a long time. Departments have developed their own cultures and so the organization as a whole does not have a culture. The departments have developed friction between each other.
With this in mind, Steve asked me: “How do you change the culture of an organization so that every employee looks at other employees with the same respect and courtesy they give their best friend? That they are willing to stop what they are doing to help another individual?” This is the answer I gave him.
First, changing the culture starts at the top. The very top levels of management, or the organization’s sponsor, must buy into the idea that the culture must change. They must take an active role in this change.
Starting with management, the organization must begin to rethink how each individual works or fits into the organization. If management is the brains of an organization, and the staff is the body, just chagrining the brain will not affect the body without a good nervous system. The nerves are the lines of communication that deliver the messages needed to make the body move and perform tasks.
In the days of old, these nerves were middle management. In today’s world these lines of communications are handled by technology or senior staff members who have taken the place of middle managers.
The spine of the organization is Human Resources. Human Resources will need to review such things as, promotions, pay administration, performance reviews and recruiting to make sure they are aligned with the desired culture. As an example, you cannot just reward individual performance if the requirements of your organizational culture specify team work. Also Human Resources would arrange and track training through communication with department heads.
The organization as a whole must have its focus changed from doing the task at hand to being customer driven. Doing the task at hand may get the job done, but does not serve all the customer needs. Serving customer needs increases the bottom line, both for the organization, and personally. This retraining/rethinking starts with the teaching of the Golden rule of Customer Service (“Treat every customer the way you (or your best friend) wants to be treated”) and Continuous Improvement. These two simple ideas can completely turn a culture around if totally supported and promoted by management.
Let us begin with Continuous Improvement. This is the idea that every task or process can be improved on or eliminated to increase efficiency and reduce costs. There are many ways to implement the idea of working to improve the processes in an organization (too many to discuss here). What I will say is that from the top down the focus must be changed to look for ways to improve the processes and find duplications of effort.
Secondly, the Golden Rule of Customer Servicemust be taught. Sounds simple, but the retraining/rethinking is to identify all your customers. That takes some thought. We have to be retrained to identify and think of every person we interact with as a customer. Internal and external customers must be identified. You have to be able to relate an interruption by a co-worker the same way you do when an external customer calls to order a product, for instance. This also requires team work, team spirit, or my favorite phrase, “esprit-de-corps”, a spirit of pride in the organization as a whole.
With a management commitment to build a new culture for the organization and training the members of an organization to recognize the customer, an organization can establish harmony and efficiency.
Ed Reiter, VP of Customer Experience, CAASPRE Consulting, Tampa, FL