In life, we design from the outside in. Take skyscrapers, for example. The placement of interior support beams are determined by external factors like wind and gravity. How about the movie industry? Films are written as a reflection of external society, its values and plights. Products are designed to solve problems. Books for their readers. Buildings for their environment. Building from the outside in seems like a fundamental rule of human creation and construction. So why do we throw it out when designing our company cultures?
As weird as it sounds, many companies approach building their company culture from the inside out. Company missions and values, when built inside out, stem from company leadership. Here’s the issue- company leadership is inconstant. Leadership changes and executives cycle out. Every time they do, company culture shifts and employees experience whiplash. Feel like your company culture doesn’t amount to anything more than a few words on your company’s website? That’s probably because that’s all it is.
Instead, company culture should be an outside in effort. Customers must be the driving force for culture. After all, your business would not exist without first meeting their needs. On the other hand, culture must be nurtured each and every day. Culture execution is therefore an inside out game. If our customers are to feel our brand promise, we must live our culture internally.
Here are some questions to help kick start a customer oriented company culture.
- Why do we exist? Customers and their needs are central to a company’s purpose. Pinpoint that and you have a solid foundation for your mission,
- What is our brand identity/promise? What resonates with our customers? This is how you accomplish your ‘why’. For years, the post office delivered service with these words in mind: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” BMW brand centers around being “The Ultimate Driving Machine” What are yours?
- What are your values? Chick-Fil-A is all about customer service. They demonstrate these values with their famous ‘My Pleasure’.
- What behaviors demonstrate our purpose, promise and values? Really think about what actions demonstrate your values. Live them each day. This is how people experience your culture.
It is the connectivity in the answers to the above questions that formulate or create culture. But one thing is for certain, its construction must be motivated from the external, the customer. Without that, your mission is nothing more than ever shifting, empty words.
Brad Federman is the CEO of PerformancePoint, LLC.