For over 15 years I’ve worked on and with culture. Culture in organizations is the bedrock of beliefs that determine what behavior employees see as both possible and beneficial. The bottom-line is that if behavior is not see as beneficial (to the employees) then anything requiring that kind of behavior is not possible.
This is why I’m so keen on matching the strategic needs important to a company’s future with the culture. Ask anyone and they will tell you stories of companies that have created strategic plans, only to have them sit on the shelf. This is one reason why – the behaviors needed to implement that strategy did not live in the culture.
If the new strategy required innovation, for example, and employees have been systematically restricted from experimenting, if their suggestions have been ignored, or if mistakes and failures are severely punished, then no employee will really believe that the leadership wants innovation and no one will take the risks needed to make innovation happen.
As companies move toward sustainability this becomes even more important. One of the key benefits of strategic sustainability efforts is the generation of new ways of thinking and working that lead to innovative processes, products and revenue streams. If the culture of the organization does not led itself to creativity and experimentation, then the deeper and more strategic aspects of sustainability will not resonate.
Additionally, if the goal is to put sustainability into the DNA of the organization, then a major piece of that process is the revamping of the company culture. The Triplepundent talks about the ‘value’ employee, one for whom the connection between personal values and company values is key. This connection will reduce turnover, attract more capable employees, and generate a sense of empowerment that increases productivity. This is the holy grail of culture – a cemented connection between the beliefs and values of the employees with the strategic needs of the company. When these two meet magic happens!
The Network for Business Sustainability, in a recent report, says, “93% of CEOs see sustainability as important to their company’s future success. Yet, most do not know how to embed sustainability into their company.” Culture has always been an opaque subject to those who are used to dealing with tangible and easily measurable subjects. This was the reason we have worked so hard to create tools that measure culture and that offer companies a way to determine the depth of leadership understanding and how well their management style evokes desired behavior in employees.
As we move forward in greening our businesses, we will need to make some serious shifts in how we mange if we wish to see the extraordinary benefits to be gained from ‘thinking like the planet’ actually manifest in increased profit and reduced costs. This is the direction we are going and this is where the true benefits of being Deep Green will manifest themselves!