Is Culture Always the Problem in Any Business?
It is becoming common to blame "culture" for everything today. I guess this is because there are so many people selling solutions to culture in the form of Performance Management (PM) systems, Business Intelligence (BI) systems and other software solutions that frame and measure these issues but almost never solve them alone. Much more is needed to change a culture than software.
We could state this claim more broadly. Most management teams, CEOs and companies "do not know what they don't know", which includes several invisible battlegrounds. Consultants would have no business at all if his we not true, because clients would understand and prevent the problems in the first place before they became painful enough to bring in an expensive hired gun.
Generally when you go into a company as a consultant the actual (root) problem is 2-3 levels away from what they think the problem is before you arrive. For example, they say "sales are slowing" (symptom not problem) so we think we need to improve our sales process and they hire a Sales Process specialist. Oops! Not the root issue but the Sales Process specialist certainly is not going to turn down that business and they will find some things to improve. However, if the client knew they did not understand the root problem they would bring in a generalist consultant to do the "Discovery" part. Which is figuring out where the real, or root problem is located. There could be several contributing factors too. Typically a really good consultant will find out they have 3-4 other systemic issues that allowed this symptom to fester and grow for the last 6-24 months. Given that much time it developed into something urgent (pain point). In actuality the root cause(s) might be defunded product development and the product aged itself into obsolescence, or customer service is bad and/or the sales process needs to evolve due to outside factors like competition. There could be 1, 5 or even 10 root issues but internal people cannot see them because of cogitative dissonance, lack of perspective (scope) or lack of experience.
You can always argue culture (people) are at the root of any problem, or success too. Not having the "right people on the bus" is always going to drive lots of problems eventually. So the statement of "culture" being the problem is both meaningless and hard to argue with at the same time. It is a catch all excuse. It does not help understand and solve any problem.
After twenty years as a CEO, and five as a CEO Coach and Consultant I came to the conclusion there are only six "root causes" of problems and six systems that prevent (not solve) those potential problems.
One is exactly what is being said here, culture. We call the solution to that Human Capital Acquisition and Development (HCAD). That is a set of best practices and processes for recruiting, hiring, ad developing people and also managing the culture.
You can learn about this here. The other 5 Systems are:
a) A Strategic Planning Process which decides the correct "what to do" long-term
b) Management Best Practices and styles to manage the people day-to-day well
c) Dashboards and Metrics to run the business by the numbers and enable more leverage and delegation via Management By Exception (MBE=autopilot)
d) Strategic Budgeting - The process to decide on innovation investments and opportunities which the finance department, accounting and accountants do not do well
e) Process Management - The process or convention to document, train and improve processes constantly (also innovation)
In my experience these systems prevent all the problems preemptively. You could always subdivide them further but this becomes a very manageable and teachable model with Six Systems. It creates a path for managers to grow through in their careers and to be able to analyze and enable critical thinking and diagnosis. This can get them thinking about and understanding, root problems, not just symptoms.
We training and certifying consultants in these Six System and have over 100 training videos online to use with clients during engagements. Contact us if you want to have one or more of these Systems in your tool box as a Consultant or Manager.
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of
Bob Norton, Founder of AirTight Management, has been designing dashboards since 1992 and trains and certifies all AirTight consultants and coaches. Bob Norton has been a CEO since 1989 and a CEO Coach, Consultant and Thought Leader in Leadership, Management and Systems since 2002. He is also the creator of The CEO Boot Camp and hundreds of training programs for executives and managers.