You can have the world’s best business strategy, but if you don’t bring the organisation along on the journey, there may be problems along the way. Anytime you look at changing the direction of the organisation or its value set, you need to actually make sure that your implementation includes the entire business.

Sticking to The Values of Your Tribe

One of the natural phenomena that occur within any organisation that has a fair number of employees or members, a variety of departments, and various levels of management/hierarchy, is the formation of “tribes.”

Usually, they are based around their department, job duties and status within the organisation, but tribes can develop around shared ideas, values, common experiences and outside interests. It would be wonderful if 160 people could all be on the same page, but the research and development people on the second floor spend their days engaged in different activities than the salespeople out on the road. They’re probably also not cut from the same cloth, personality-wise.

If you’re not careful, instead of having one overall culture with smaller tribal cultures, those tribes evolve, and you end up with eight silo cultures and no over-arching value set that unites the company.

I worked with an organisation a while ago that had this issue. They had one small, central urban office, but they also had many warehouses and facilities spread throughout the country, in both urban and rural districts.

Despite the fact they were doing the same work, I’d never seen so many different cultures in one place. The centralised office had no idea what was going on in their production facilities or their warehouses.

The production facilities knew nothing about how the warehouses operated, and the warehouses felt like they were at the bottom of the food chain and ignored. There was also misplaced distrust between production facilities or between warehouses. The only thing everybody shared was the belief someone was out to get them.

Everybody saw themselves as a separate entity. Think about your place in the world. If I ask you, “Where do you live?” are you going to tell me the name of a city, a state, or a country? It’s very similar.

In this particular organisation, the “city” was the little tribe within their facility, the “state” was the facility itself and the “country” was the company as a whole. Technically, they belonged to all levels, but since there was no real culture created at the “country” level; all of these factions operated independently of one another.

When things went wrong, it resulted in a lot of finger-pointing.

I sat down with the top management at their corporate office and explained the problem of cultural silos within the organisation. What do you think happened? Plenty of finger-pointing.
The thing was, nobody was doing a bad job. They were all doing what they thought was right, but because there was no culture of communication the message wasn’t getting through.

It wasn’t an easy fix, but we developed systems to allow everybody who worked for the company—all of the members of the “country”—to understand their role in the bigger picture and instituted a framework for communication that had a cohesive effect and is still used there today.

I have just published a book entitled Growing Up – Unleash Your Business Growth aimed at business owners who have a passion and vision for Business Growth. If you manage a medium-sized business, are battling with growth roadblocks and have a passion to change, I will be happy to send you a copy of my book free of charge. (Yes, it is a real book, not an eBook).

Just follow the link at www.unleashyourbusinessgrowth.com

David Nixon is Director, Advisor, Author and Entrepreneur and is recognised as Australia’s Authority on Unleashing Growth Barriers for SMEs.