Let’s connect the dots today on three aspects of your business as mentioned in the title of this posting. Over the years, I’ve been amazed at how compartmental I find these "functional areas" are in most businesses. Let’s break the code on the "functional areas" and put it in terms of people.
- Business Strategy is code for "Senior Management / Shareholders."
- Corporate Culture is code for "People" inside the business or "Administration, Operations, and Sales."
- Branding is code for "Customers" with experience with the company’s service and products.
Senior Management is responsible for writing business strategy plus creating and supporting a corporate culture to execute the strategy. In turn, the customer experience is a direct result of the output of the corporate culture. Alignment of all three "functions" isn’t simply a matter of putting together gears in a wheel. The physical stuff needs to happen for sure, but that’s the easy part in reality.
Business is all about the people. The true challenge is getting the people aligned, communicating, similarly motivated, and prepared to perform their jobs with excellence. Unfortunately, I’ve watched a "Fake it ’til you make it" approach of branding ourselves into the appearance of alignment. Marketing is asked to fix a world of sins within the company by portraying the company as something it isn’t able to deliver. This short-lived approach can actually produce results and fool the customers and team into believing they’re something they aren’t – successful.
Eventually, the hypocrisy emerges. High integrity people realize the problem and attempt to fix it in their functional area of authority. Unfortunately, the addiction to the quick fix has set in and so begins the battle between the long term thinkers and the short term performers.
Who wins? Nobody wins because the house is divided.
Whose fault is it? Senior management is ultimately to blame because they set the corporate culture in motion, they have the authority to fund and fix the necessary changes to bring integrity to the system. This alignment pays dividends and makes the flywheel of success spin effortlessly and profitably. If management hasn’t done their job then the entire system underperforms.
Sadly, the battle is most often won by the short term, numbers people, who milk every penny out of the system that steadily kills the golden goose. A subtle, but significant series of departure begins. The people with true integrity battle within their functional area for doing right. Dependency on short term cash flow builds to such a degree that the situations become so desperate that the "only option" is the short term fix. In time, the people taking the high integrity approach depart frustrated because they’re unwilling to continually make and fail to keep promises to co-workers and customers. As the people of low character "win," the company grows disreputable over time and falters. Like rats on a ship who ate away at the very rigging that holds it together, the rats jump ship in droves to work their "magic" somewhere else.
So what’s the solution?