Today’s post is the feature article  from the February 2004 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1How important is culture? We certainly have seen the impact of cultures around the world and the effects it can have in a society. But what about within a company? Is corporate culture real? Does it really matter? Does it impact a community that works together? Can it positively or negatively affect retention, service and even the very fulfillment of its employees? I asked our readers last month for their opinion. It was even stronger than I had expected. A full 98% of the respondents evenly agreed or strongly agreed that culture impacts trust, retention and genuine service. And 93% believed you can be intentional about the culture you create — in other words you can mold the culture rather than letting it mold you. I like to think of culture as the soil of the organization. Programs and initiatives are simply great seeds planted in the soil. The question is — how fertile is the soil? The greatest customer service initiative planted in depleted soil is likely to whither on the vine. Not because it isn’t a great initiative, but because it is impossible for it to really take root. We demand a lot from the soil in our organizations. The demand for short-term results may be necessary, but can deplete unattended soil. Farmers know the care they must take to replenish their soil. It might be crop rotation or not planting anything in a given year. Values, vision, mission and strategic initiatives may be great to fertilize the earth of an organization — but they will never replace tending to the soil itself. A full 43.6% of our respondents said their organization is intentional about developing organization culture. And exactly 43.6% responded that cultural development was directly in the hands of their C-level management. Hmmm. Wonder if they might be the same exact companies. A full one-fourth of our respondents said NO ONE is tending to the culture and the remainder were evenly split between either HR or Professional Development Teams looking after culture. Who is tending the soil in your organization? Whenever we commence construction of a new building there is usually a “ground-breaking” ceremony. Typically a key executive does the honor with a beautiful keepsake shovel. Maybe the problem is that we put the shovel away!

Action Idea: Start thinking about how intentional your organization is about your culture. What about your department or division — or your immediate team? Get intentional. Get a shovel. Literally. Get everyone a shovel and start digging — so that the seeds of your initiatives have a chance to fall into fertile soil!