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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Yes, You Are Unique…Just Like Everyone Else

By Tim Hyzdu, Managing Consultant

People like to feel unique, and organizations, being a collection of people, are no different. I have worked with many organizations, and when I talk about the actions they need to take to improve their organizational culture, there is almost always one executive who is preoccupied with his or her belief that the rules are different for his or her company. It usually sounds like this: “That might work in [healthcare/banking/Washington, D.C.], but we are [lawyers/engineers/in California] and we are different.”

Another frequently used maxim is, “I know we have issues, but that is just normal for our industry.” And while it’s true that all industries face unique challenges, it is essential to realize that the common factors affecting a company’s employees far outweigh the differences stemming from industry or location.

For example, the banking and healthcare industries seem quite different on the surface, and they are. But they are similar in that they are both facing increased budgetary constraints, an evolving workforce, and unprecedented changes in government regulations. Both industries also have customers who demand a high level of service, which increases competition for revenue. What all of these issues have in common is the similar effect they can have on a company’s culture.

Your company is likely facing many of these same challenges. While trying to respond to all of these issues, communication about strategy, policy, and procedural changes is often not adequately cascaded from the boardroom to the front lines. This leads to confusion among the front-line staff and negatively affects their ability to serve your customers. Left undiagnosed and unchecked, these problems can cost large companies millions of dollars each year.

There is a time and place to focus on what makes your company unique. But convincing yourself that your company or industry is so unique that your workforce is immune to intervention can have negative conesequences. That’s like going to a doctor, being diagnosed with high blood pressure, and then thinking that more exercise and eating healthier will not work for you. Similarly, leaders who believe that chronic organizational issues are “just normal for our industry” will miss opportunities to create a culture where highly engaged employees bring innovative ideas to improve and grow the organization.

The bottom line: Companies with thriving cultures make their culture a priority and consistently work to improve it. They also benchmark themselves against the best, regardless of their industry or region. To continuously improve your organizational culture, you must start by using the right measurement tools and be prepared to take action. Believing that industry or geographic uniqueness somehow prevents your company from having a high-performance culture is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.


Courage to speak out said...
February 12, 2014 at 6:50 AM  

Great article - especially love the idea that the missteps between the boardroom and the front line cause both disengagement and poor execution. Well done.

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