Culture – The Other Two of the Four Halves

by Ron Potter

In the last post, I discussed balancing the right side vs the left side of the Culture Survey, Stability vs Flexibility.  This week we’ll look at the top vs the bottom, External Focus vs Internal Focus.  You can see from the chart that the top half (External Focus) is driven by the Vision and Adaptability quadrants.

External Focus

Again, for very natural reasons, I often see more focus on the external than I do the internal.  For one, it’s easier to speak with external suppliers, press, buyers than it is to face the internal issues of making sure everyone is involved and engaged, living by accepted core values and reaching agreement and alignment across an organization run by many “type A” leaders.

One of my interesting observations through the years has been to see the CEO and COO work together as a team.  One of them often functions as “Mr. Inside” while the other one functions in the role of “Miss Outside.”  Don’t make the mistake of assuming the CEO functions outside while the COO functions inside.  The best transitions I’ve observed during a CEO retirement is when the COO takes over but still functions as the inside force.  The new COO is good at the outside connection.  This creates the smoothest transfer and keeps the company headed toward the future they’ve been preparing for.  Failure seems to happen when the board assumes that because the retiring CEO was a great visionary, they must hire a new CEO that’s also a visionary.  However, the new vision is often very different from the existing vision and the company has not prepared itself to move forward at the necessary speed.  A rotation that keeps the current vision in place and moving along at the right speed seems to work the best.

Internal Focus

Too often there is not enough effort to keep the people involved and consistency maintained to keep the company moving in the right direction at the necessary speed.  Never stop empowering the people, building teams and developing the strength and skills necessary to move into the future.  Involvement is critical to future success.

Consistency is tough to build but easy to lose.  If you:

  • Allow Core Values to be violated without consequences,
  • Don’t require a commitment to decisions that impact the entire company or
  • Allow departments and divisions to make decisions that help them but ignore the other teams

you’ll quickly lose consistency and the required, strength, resiliency and unity that is needed to create a great company in difficult times.

Balance, Balance, Balance

Great cultures required balance.  At any point in time, your company may require special strength and commitment to a particular part of the Culture Chart in order to deal with special market situations.  But even in that case, don’t let your chart get too far out of balance.  Balance, Balance, Balance.  It’s a requirement.

3rd Quartile

Regardless of the situation, you must have good culture scores in every element of the chart.  I would suggest that if you score in a range below the 50th percentile in any element, you work there first to correct the situation before moving on to the culture as a whole.  There may be particular strengths required for different market conditions (see next week’s blog about particular market conditions) but I believe that every element of the twelve should be in the 3rd quartile first before moving on to work on a particular situation.

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