The single biggest competitive advantage an organisation can develop is its culture.  Not cashflow, not marketing, not products or services.  It is the one thing that cannot be replicated by your competitors as it is uniquely developed for each company, history and story.  Unfortunately, most CEO’s and senior managers ignore it as an advantage due to a number of reasons.

  • They often believe it is below them.  Culture is made up of small, daily habits of discipline, courageous decisions and calling behaviours.  It requires a constant focus and a real commitment to less is more and being proactive.  Unfortunately, most senior executives believe they need the big bang or the next management trend as the answer to their problems.  Culture is about doing what is right in your business and treating people the way you wish to be treated.  The results then follow.
  •  The busy versus productive mindset of most executives.  Too many executives get caught up in the fire fighting, being busy, the task list, reacting to everything from customers, the board and the next urgent priority.  Unfortunately, this is not focussing on what truly matters to be successful.  Really focussing on what matters, what truly will make a difference means you have to be disciplined to slow down and really assess how you plan to drive outstanding performance in your organisation.
  •  I can’t see the immediate financial return?  Culture can be hard to quantify for some.  How will it improve my bottom line?  It won’t generate more revenue for our business if we focus on culture.  You need to be able to look beyond purely the financial outcomes and understand that most of the inputs to a successful business require a great working environment to thrive.  This includes our people, our customers, our stakeholders and innovation.  Without this, outstanding results will not be generated in a sustainable manner with the owner or a few individuals.
  • They choose task over people when remunerating Executive teams.  When busy, people revert to task and type.  They focus on getting the job done rather than focussing on the fact that they higher they are in an organisation, the more important it is to work with people, explain the why and the how and communicate the vision, the working environment and the desired culture.  The great organisations get this balance right with their incentive schemes and ensure people are engaged to the wider mission, strategy and vision for the organisation.

It requires a real commitment to counter the barriers above.  However, the upside and benefits to an organisation and the people that work in them is significant if these are addressed, acknowledged and worked through.  When culture is understood and truly committed to over the long term, these organisations consistently outperform their competitors.  In addition to this, they tap in to the true potential of their people which is becoming more critical as we continue to compete globally in most industries.

The greatest competitive advantage is within your reach.   Is your organisation and executives in a place where they see it as an opportunity to deliver high performance or something they associate with being nice to each other?  Cultural change is hard but the reward is too big to ignore.

Culture is king and will continue to rule as long as business continues to be about people.