If culture is such an important component to a successful organization why then isn’t it a major focus of every C-suite? The answer to this question is related to several fundamental aspects of human nature itself. First, we prefer the concrete over the abstract. Second, we prefer instant gratification over delayed gratification. And lastly, uncertainty makes us very nervous. We would much rather live the in the world of formulas, business plans, and reports. Also, some believe that the bottom line drives the business. In reality it is the business, and more specifically the people and the culture, that drives the bottom line.
Most businesses are driven by a monthly profit and loss statement and knowing that 2+2=4 provides them with something to follow and manage.
The concept of culture is a completely different universe. Many have written about the importance of culture in successful organizations. The number of “cultural illuminati” continues to grow. While many understand the importance of organizational culture as the “secret sauce” of success no one seems to have the recipe for the sauce. One of the cultural illuminati is Bernard Rosauer. Mr. Rosauer is currently the president of the Wisconsin Compensation Ratings Bureau. He has had a successful 30 year career in the data-intense insurance industry. At one point in his career he was assigned the responsibility of organic corporate growth and customer retention. He developed an incredibly insightful approach which is detailed at his website ThreeBellCurves. A free white paper is available for download at the website and Mr. Rosauer lectures and provides executive training based on the Three Bell Curves concepts. It is a great read that helps leaders maintain focus on the three most important aspects of business culture: the customers (patients for the health care industry), the work, and the employees.
The Three Bell Curves white paper also has a great introductory paragraph regarding culture. In one paragraph Mr. Rosauer elegantly describes culture as an emergence. He uses a definition that describes the essence of culture and at the same time demonstrates why the term culture induces anxiety in most managers:
“An emergence is a novel, complex and often immeasurable state resulting from the combination of two or more simple ingredients.”
He then goes on to describe an emergence as:
“In simple terms, an emergence can be explained as those times when 2+2=5.”
An emergence. That is a difficult sell to those who believe that the bottom line drives the business. Even for those who understand that the business drives the bottom line the cultural emergence is a challenge. There is no step wise process to manage. Rather, establishing the foundation for cultural emergence begins with a simple combination of good people who have a laser focus on the appropriate priorities. With the appropriate support and patience a very successful culture then emerges over time. This organically grown culture differentiates the organization from all competitors, provides stability in the face of challenges and fads and then ultimately drives the bottom line.