Pat the CEO has been accepting of the growth of her company over the years. The rate of 18-20 percent incremental revenues has Pat pleased going into the third quarter. The issue is that Pat is somewhat impatient and wants greater growth and sooner.

Two years ago Pat was at a similar position with her organization as today. She was impatient with the progress to date and needed to shake things up within the culture. Two years ago many of the employees were long-time friends who helped her get the organization launched from her couch in her living room. The culture was intimate yet filled with contempt due to the familiarity. Though the employees were her friends they were taking advantage of Pat through their respective relationships: more time off than allowed by stated benefits provided, increasingly missed deadlines, extended out of town travel to accommodate personal interests then asking for full expense reimbursement. Pat provided – “shame on her!”

At this point Pat pursued changing her culture by firing many of her friends. Tough decisions yet necessary to get to the next level. Bringing on new people, strangers, into her business filled Pat’s thoughts with trepidation and second-guess work. This was a path she had not traveled before. Some of the new hires resulted in great results and some were failures. In the end Pat knew she needed to change the culture. Two prevalent items/aspects of Pat’s business concerns/focus are listed below:

  1. Brand:
    1. Internal – what do employees say about the environment/company/culture
    2. External – Pat wanted to ensure that her brand in the respective industry was distinct from the competition
  2. People serious about contributing to success (via position descriptions): had HR compose new Job Descriptions with the following areas included:
    1. Specific Requirements – e.g., schooling. She wanted to upgrade the talent based on education.
    2. Results Pursued – specific outcomes expected of an individual in the respective job

You may think that the above items are simple and obvious. Please reconsider:

  1. Specific Requirements: in this case a change in education level was defined as contributing to a new level of talent and an upgrade from the past.
  2. Results Pursued: rarely if ever are specific outcomes stated, they usually come in generalities to cover as much territory as possible. Times are a changing, I apologize. Times have changed. The younger worker wants more clarity before they commit to an employer. (Something to consider for those of you hiring this year and in the future.)

Pat’s success during the past two years was a contribution from upgrading the talent and being clearer in what she wanted from employees. Translation: 20+% growth during the past two years.

It’s time, her impatience kicked in; an intuitive sense that it’s time to shake it up and change the culture again. (By the way, her strategy due to past behavior is now a two year consideration. She has eliminated 5 and 10 year plans. They don’t fit her personality.)

The path for Pat this time was to learn what the current perspective was in many areas. Below are two aspects of many considered for modification to help in the defining of the “new” culture that will lead to next level results. A survey was sent to the employees; we are sharing results from four areas:

  1. She surveyed the employees to learn the following:
    1. What benefits should be eliminated/modified/added?
    2. What “company activities/events” should be added to the schedule?
    3. What development/training topics/classes needed?
    4. What attitudes needed to be modified within the current culture?
  2. The shift in the above perceived four crucial areas of Pat’s culture:
    1. Benefts:
      1. Adding a flexible day(s) whereby people can work from home at least one day per week; coordinated scheduling with teammates.
      2. Healthy snacks (e.g., fresh fruit) provided daily
    2. Company celebrations with certain type outcomes for clients:
      1. Lunch provided on occasion
      2. Special “gift” for an individual going above and beyond: gift card
    3. Development/Training:
      1. Bringing in experts in areas of development necessary for furthering success in current positions and preparation for future position consideration
      2. Budget commitment for access to external training, at least one class per year.
    4. Attitudinal modification; getting people to ask different questions of themselves:
      1. Getting people in “Blame Game” to wake up and start asking of themselves, “Who and what is impacted by my actions?”
      2. “Not my yob” to “What else can I do to make a difference?”Though the above discussion may appear to be simple, it is not easy work. Changing a culture does not happen overnight. You’re asking people to change years of habit (no blame here) and start a new approach. Reinforcement and consistent support is necessary to ensure the change. I predict Pat’s approach plus her past success, that she will experience similar if not greater success in the coming two to three years. She will need to make tough decisions related to hiring and firing people, investing more money in the organization by changing/adding to benefits, etc. She has proven results from the past to access for inspiration.

The willingness to change your environment to achieve greater strategic outcomes and your heart-felt desires requires cultural change.

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)