Individual lone wolf heroics can offer a quick fix to paper over performance issues, but sustained growth needs trust and a culture of shared values.
At the start of my career I thought of culture as simply the arts and good manners; classical ballet at the Royal Opera House ? Yes please, thank-you.
As awareness developed in delivery roles based on allocated objectives and resources, organisational culture looks like:
how things get done around here
Moving into corporate influencing and bargaining activities such as setting direction and competing for resources, I appreciated the need for robust organisational culture to normalise and align group behaviours. It’s the result of coherent principles that span vision, mission, values and measures.
Over 25 years in business I have naturally encountered many and varied cultural cases. Typically too many buzzwords, not enough behaviour and zero performance measures. Occasionally brought to life through active conflict between corporate aspiration and management activity.
During a particularly challenging experience I came across an article about a philanthropist’s business philosophy; Have Fun, Make Money, Do Good. That worked for me, so I tried it with the team where it provided a shared foundation for morale and performance improvement.
Since then I have used it as my personal philosophy, integrating with any incumbent organisation cultural goodness. To elaborate on possibly simplistic and shallow words;
Have Fun is shorthand for enjoy what you do. You have choice, don’t squander your time being unhappy.
Make Money is a catchy way to avoid the corp-speak of “ add value”; create value for yourself, your employer and customers in a sustainable chain. Always leave something in the deal for the next guy.
Do Good; if your emotional and physical bank accounts are healthy, invest some back into society.
I’m not selling, simply suggesting that a robust personal philosophy is intrinsically wonderful. Do you have one ?
With a strong personal philosophy in an organisational vacuum one can end up a lone wolf playing at individual hero. Fine as a point solution to a specific problem, but without a clear mandate for change it won’t stick or scale in an organisation.
Having developed the awareness to perceive and test the impact of organisational culture on business performance, my observation is;
- A strong organisational culture based on coherent vision, mission, values and measures that are shared and practiced by the majority will underpin sustained performance; team amplification.
- A bunch of individuals flying in loose formation with their separate philosophies or values (no matter how good) may deliver unpredictable spikes of success based on individual lone wolf heroics, but not sustained growth. “I am consultant” behaviour.
What to do if you perceive a problem with culture, but don’t have the authority or mandate to challenge or change it ? Suck it up like a good corporate citizen, stand up strategically and take it head on, or quietly get on with lone wolf guerrilla tactics. There’s no right answer, but to avoid the issue and focus on producing consider;
Don’t pick the job or the boss, pick the culture.
First published by the author on LinkedIn