Are we as one? Do managers speak as one? Do staff behave as one? Do we all know what we are doing? In other words how strong is the corporate culture? This is a question that gets asked in organisations when things are going wrong. The policies were clear so how come they weren’t followed? We have spent millions on staff development so how come some people can’t do what’s expected of them? We have invested heavily in new technology so why are we not seeing the benefits? It’s the job of the chief executive to impose/embed a strong corporate culture, a culture that the board espouse. Naturally the chief executive and board don’t want to wait till a scandal, a disaster or a tragedy exposes a weak corporate culture or highlights a strong unofficial culture. The usual response is to engage some very expensive management consultants who will run a series of focus groups, conduct a few in-depth interviews, ask your partners what they really think of you and produce a lengthy report which will probably confirm that not everyone is on board. Negative comments about budget cuts and the reorganisation are of course to be expected. Useful insights will be limited as managers tend to be careful about what they say if they know it’s being written down and feedback to your boss. What is needed is a simple, quick and cheap test of corporate culture.
You want to know. Do managers lead by example? Are managers effective in instructing staff in what they have to do? Do staff do what they are supposed to do? So what you need is a fire drill!
When the alarm bell rings do staff immediately file out the building not stopping to collect personal belongings, report to their station, get their name ticked off by the fire marshal and wait uncomplaining despite the weather for the all clear to return? Alternatively when the fire bell rings do people remain at their desk to see if it another false alarm set off by the workmen on the top floor for the third time this week? Do fire officers have to go round the building telling people they must leave whilst people gather their coats, tell the person on the phone to ring them back on their mobile, put their out of office reply on their mail box or juggle with three cups of coffee they were making for colleagues? Out in the car park do they report immediately to their station or spotting a colleague from another section do they take the opportunity to have that word with them. Do they know where they are supposed to report to or do they just wander round asking people should I be with you? Do people start harassing the fire marshal about standing in the cold and wet, is there a move by some to re-enter the building because they have heard it was another false alarm? The fire marshals are struggling to get the cooperation of some individuals, the marshals could do with the support of some senior managers but they apparently left the scene having important meetings to go to elsewhere.
If they won’t do it when it’s a matter of their own life and death........
Blair McPherson author and blogger on management and leadership in the public sector www.blairmcpherson.co.uk