In general, Pat has been satisfied with the growth of her company over the years, and the current rate of 18 to 20% incremental revenues has the CEO pleased going into the third quarter of 2013.

Pat, however, tends to be impatient and wants greater growth sooner. For her “pleased” and “satisfied” aren’t good enough.

Two years ago, Pat was in a similar position. Feeling impatient, she decided to shake up her company’s culture. Many of her employees were long-time friends who had helped her launch the organization from her living room.

The company culture was intimate yet became filled with contempt due to familiarity. Many took advantage of their friendships with Pat. They took more time off than their benefits allowed, increasingly missed deadlines, and took extended out-of-town trips to accommodate personal interests and then asked for full reimbursement.

For a while, Pat allowed the behavior, but soon she realized she had to make some tough decisions to get the company to the next level. Eventually she pursued a culture change and fired many of her friends.

Bringing new people—strangers—into the business was daunting, and while Pat understood some of the new hires would eventually succeed and some fail, she knew changing the culture was the right move. Her company would not survive with more “business as usual.”

Now, two years later, Pat’s intuition tells her it’s time to shake up the culture once again.

She knows the success she has enjoyed over the past two years is due to an upgrade in talent and her being clearer about what she wants from employees. She is determined to surround herself with people serious about contributing to the company’s success. To that end, all new job descriptions will include specific and increased requirements for education and training, as well as expectations for specific outcomes, which previously were only stated in generalities (if ever).

She also wants to understand better what employees communicate about the company and its culture, and she wants to ensure her company’s brand is distinct from the competition.

To start the discussion as to what the company’s new culture should entail, Pat sent a survey to all current employees to learn their perspectives on the following:

  1. What benefits should be eliminated, modified, or added?
  2. What company activities or events should be added to the schedule?
  3. What development, training topics, or classes are needed?
  4. What attitudes needed to be modified within the current culture?

Survey responses revealed four areas crucial to what Pat’s employees think their company’s “new” culture should include:

  1. Benefits
    • Adding flexible days so staff can work from home at least one day per week by coordinating their schedules with teammates
    • Providing healthy snacks (such as fresh fruit) in the office daily
  2. Company Celebrations to Recognize Achieving/Exceeding Outcomes
    • Lunch provided on occasion
    • Special “gifts” (such as gift cards) for individuals who go above and beyond
  3. Development/Training
    • Bringing experts in to further employee success in current positions and prepare them for potential future positions
    • Committing budget for external training, at least one class per year
  4. Modifying Attitudes
    • Getting people who are used to playing the “Blame Game” to wake up and start asking themselves, “Who and what is impacting my actions?”
    • Getting people to stop saying, “It’s not my job” and ask instead, “What else can I do to make a difference?

These four areas may seem obvious places to start, but changing a culture does not happen overnight, nor is it easy. You’re asking people to change years of habits and to start whole new approaches. Reinforcement and consistent support is necessary to ensure the change sticks.

Based on Pat’s current approach plus her past success, I predict she will experience similar if not greater success going forward. Of course, she will need to make tough decisions related to hiring and firing people, and invest more money in the organization by changing/adding to benefits and developing her people—but she has proven results for inspiration.

Great leaders, like Pat, know that changing their environments to achieve greater strategic outcomes and heart-felt desires requires cultural change. They also know that “where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

It’s your choice…


(Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates. He is a business visionary helping his clients get their companies “Unstuck!” He guides organizations through cultural shifts, getting people aligned to strategic outcomes. He is a leading consultant, speaker, coach, and author. He can be reached via email: stuart@pma-co.com)