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Strong vs. Weak Cultures

September 4, 2012

corperate cultureCorporate culture reflects the values, beliefs and attitudes that permeate a business.  Corporate culture is often referred to as “the character of an organization” representing the collective behavior of people using common corporate vision, goals, shared values, attitudes, habits, working language, systems and symbols.  Corporate culture is interwoven with processes, technologies, learning and significant events.  It is a total sum of the values, customs, traditions and meanings that make a company unique.

Think of culture as an iceberg.  Icebergs float on top of the water and are visible to the eye.  Beneath the surface, the iceberg is significantly larger than what is visible above the waterline.  As a metaphor for organizational culture, the tip of the iceberg is the visible culture including things such as dress code, work environment, benefits, titles and job descriptions, organizational charts, policies and procedures and formal processes.  In looking beneath the surface, however, we find clues to “the ways things are really done around here” – norms, unwritten rules, attitudes, beliefs, shared assumptions, moods, emotions and unconscious interpretations.  Often, what is above the surface is often not consistent with what lies below.  It is what is beneath the surface that truly supports or inhibits organizational culture.

Strong vs. Weak Cultures

Strong vs Weak CulturesA strong culture exists when employees respond to stimulus because of their alignment to organizational values.  Strong cultures help firms operate like well-oiled machines cruising along with outstanding execution.  Minor tweaking of existing procedures enhances performance.  In thriving, profitable companies, employees embody the values, visions and strategic priorities of their company.

Research indicates that the strongest cultures embrace the importance of Kaizen, or continuing improvement.  Kaizen cultures require both conscious and subconscious thinking about improvements from everyone. 

Conversely, a weak culture exists when there is little alignment with organizational values and control must be exercised through extensive policies, procedures and bureaucracy.  Signs of a weak culture include lack of trust, focus on problems, staff losing confidence in their leaders and systems, and people spending more time focusing on problems rather than opportunities.

AIC’s Research

graph going upOver the past eight years, Addis Intellectual Capital has collected over 5,600 responses to its Beyond Insurance® Organic Growth Survey.  One of the questions states “Our staff is enthusiastic and energized by our business model, systems and growth strategies”.  35% of the respondents “agree”; 6% are “uncertain” and 49% “disagree”.  This simple question touches on the essence of corporate culture.  High performing organic growth agencies “agree” to this question, while under performing agencies are “uncertain” or “disagree”.

AIC has concluded that organizational growth, profitability and agency value is maximized in an environment of enlightened leaders who create a culture of creativity and innovation.  They inspire their staff to “think outside of the box” to develop value propositions which differ from their competitors.  High performance, best practices agencies are winning the battle against commoditization as a result of their ability to uncover client issues and deliver cutting edge solutions.  They go about their business with a sense of confidence, simplicity, purpose and passion.

How do you feel about your corporate culture? 

For more ideas on how to break the commodity trap connect with Beyond Insurance on:

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Scott AddisThe author, Scott Addis is the President and CEO of The Addis Group and Addis Intellectual Capital, LLC (AIC). AIC is a coaching and consulting company whose purpose is to transform the process that insurance agents, brokers and carriers use when working with clients. Scott is recognized as an industry leader having been awarded the Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award as well as “25 Most Innovative Agents in America”. Scott can be reached or 610-945-1019.

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