The primacy of culture is hard to ignore. It lies at the very heart of competitive advantage. You know when you have a great culture.

Over the past decade there has been a heightened interest in organisation culture. Indeed, the primacy of culture is hard to ignore. It lies at the very heart of competitive advantage. It is the key to the much heralded need for agility. In the vast majority of organisations, inclusion and diversity can’t and won’t be addressed without rethinking the organisation’s culture. The same can be said for sustainability. Beyond that, culture comes to the fore in a number of pressing competitive and operational issues.

The Great Exit Continues Apace

It’s been said that employees don’t leave an organisation, they leave their manager. This is demonstrably true. It is not, however, the whole truth. The talent you need most, ultimately, moves on because they don’t connect with and/or fail to be nurtured by the organisation’s culture. The link between culture and attraction is equally impactful.

The Shift of Power From the Enterprise to the Individual

The unprecedented and undeniable shift of power from the enterprise to the individual has led to an exponential growth in militant union action. The highly disruptive strikes in the UK and Australia by railway unions being but the tip of the iceberg. It’s a mistake to assume that industrial strife is all about money. At the end of the day, organisations get the industrial relations climate that they deserve. They end up with the kind of unions that the culture creates.

Hybrid Employment is Here to Stay

In some guise, hybrid employment is here to stay. The challenge? Reaping the benefit (agility, flexibility, opening up new pools of talent) while, at the same time:

  • Maintaining a sense of belonging;
  • Developing employee capability/skill;
  • Building a vibrant team chemistry;
  • Enabling innovation and collaboration to flourish; and
  • Facilitating employee engagement.

We are describing a redefinition of the workplace no less significant than the introduction of the typewriter a hundred years ago.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Has Been Largely Overshadowed

A global pandemic, the disruption of supply chains, increased economic tension with China, expansionism on the part of Russia, nuclear sabre rattling, once in a thousand-year floods and a whole lot more have dominated the headlines recently. The, so called, Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has been largely overshadowed. That doesn’t mean that the expected tsunami of technology isn’t on its way.

In the near future, whether you’re working for a major law firm, manufacturing widgets or in health care, expect how you do business to be different – very different! To take advantage of the emerging technology, however, we are going to have to think differently, act differently and organise very differently.

Organisation culture is a system. You can’t change part of the system without impacting the whole. To fully reap the benefits of new technology means to manage, mobilise and measure all of the factors that drive, deliver or potentially derail culture.

The Rate of Change is Changing

What in the past unfolded over years, now happens in days. It took 45 years for the telephone to reach 50 million users, television 22 years, computers 14 years, the internet 7 years, Facebook 3 years, WeChat 1 year and Pokemon Go 19 days. In 2020, Aarogya Setu, India’s app to fight COVID-19, reached 50 million users in just 13 days.

The Scope of Disruption is Changing

What is true regarding the speed of change is also the case when viewing the scope of disruption.

Consider the impact of just one product: the iPhone. The only way you could access the internet before June 2007 was through a PC or a laptop. Printed maps, landline telephones and CDs are now a footnote in history. Point and shoot camera sales have declined 97% in the past decade. The iPhone Pro14, which has a 48-megapixel camera, now threatens to sink the rest of the $8 billion camera industry. The iPhone also precipitated the collapse of world-leading organisations such as Nokia, Blackberry, and Motorola.

It doesn’t stop there. The traditional watch, video camera and the taxi industry have been slammed. And Apple – at the time of writing is worth $2.4 trillion – has now set its sights firmly on the $US healthcare market. It’s a market equal to 20% of the US economy. As the late Steve Jobs was proud to point out, ‘It’s all about culture.’

You Know When You Have a Great Culture

You know when you have a great culture. You have tilled the ground such that you are delivering a winning and sustainable value proposition. Customer defections are very few. Clients go out of their way to give you referrals. Talent fights to join you. The people you want to keep most, stay with you. Agility is apparent. Innovation is evident. New technology is introduced effortlessly. Sustainability is thriving. Diversity and inclusion are more than just proposed targets. You are learning faster than the competition. The return on investment makes you a market leader. And middle managers live the organisation’s values in everything that they do.

The acid test of the latter? Sit down with a group of middle managers. Ask them to outline:

  1. What the organisation’s values are;
  2. What they mean in practice; and
  3. Recent decisions they have made that were shaped by the organisation’s values.

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