Culture vs. Climate

This whole vision, culture, mission statement thing has always been a little confusing to me. A statement that encapsulates the ideals of a business and motivate their employees to great heights. This work of art is then put in all the training material, posted on walls and… forgotten about.

These statements don’t change anything. All they really do is give your staff ample ammunition when you fall off the “Vision Wagon.”

There are the companies that talk about how they will change the world with team work. Then the big boss sits in their office paranoid, micro-managing their team and refusing to delegate. Oh yes, team work at its best!

Then there are the “triangle” statements, my favourite. We have a triangle and it is important that we treat all sides equally (equilateral triangle) – Staff, Guest, Bottom line. You then go to your managers meeting spend 90% of the time talking about why you did or didn’t hit budget, 10% of the time hearing about your guest complaints and see ya next week. Hey wait a minute, we forgot to talk about something, I can’t remember but I know there was… oh yeah, our staff!

At least be honest and change the shape of your triangle. Make one gigantic long side that represents profit, a much smaller one that represents the guest and a tiny spec that represents staff (I believe that this would be an obtuse angle triangle). At least then your mission statement will be accurate and you can honestly tell any aspiring mangers that money and guest comes first. Seriously, there is nothing wrong with that if that is what you believe and it is the culture that you have created.

Here is the thing. All of those words on a page called your vision, mission or culture statement don’t mean anything unless you “live” them day in and day out. Culture is just the idea while climate is what is really happening. If your culture is all about teamwork and your work climate is all about individuals – your culture doesn’t mean much.

Here’s another thing. The more complicated the statement, the more likely it is to crash and burn! One or two ideas will do.

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins outlines the importance of a simple statement and how that decision should be the driving force behind every decision you make for your company.

In one example he talks about how a failing cross country running program was transformed into one of the best in the country (U.S.) with the statement of “we finish strongest!”

Everything the coaches did within the program was measured against this statement. If their energy or actions were not helping the team “finish strongest” they were removed from the program. The coaches even started tracking their runners differently than traditional teams. You guessed it – all of the stats they gathered were to show them how well their members finished. How many people they passed in the last mile or two of their race was tracked rather than split times etc.

This makes sense to me. Here is a really crazy and out there thought. What if your statement was, “we provide the best work environment in our industry.” Wow, so every decision you made for your company was measured up to this statement. You then adopted a linear approach rather than the ol’ obtuse triangle that looked like this…



Bottom Line

Rather than trying to manager all 3 “sides,” you just take care of the most important (and often neglected) staff side. We all know that happy employees perform better, so the guest will just be taken care of better. And hey, guess what happens when all of your happy staff are giving great service to all of your guests – a healthy bottom line!

I know that this is a huge “step to the left” in terms of thinking, but it might just work. The truth is that when you try to divide your attention the end result gets a lot more attention then the steps to get there. But, if you shift you focus to the most important steps the end result will be better.

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