You don’t expect a cook to make an exceptional meal without a kitchen. Nor do you assume a commercial pilot will take off without a destination. These things are considered common sense. Yet, too many leaders fail to connect similar simple dots within their companies. They become frustrated when employees don’t deliver on the brand promise, not recognizing that employees can’t do so when they aren’t given what they need.
So, what do they need? One of Baker’s Performance from Purpose principles sums it up: A brand’s delivery is empowered through processes, tools and culture. The presence and alignment of all three elements is essential for exceptional performance.
When culture lacks
With solid processes and tools, things run smoothly and teams have access to resources they need at their fingertips. However, without an underlying culture, the company lacks values-based bonds, a shared vision, emotional connections and a spirit of passion that often draws discretionary effort from employees. This lack of a strong culture — missing a shared vision to inspire and guide employees — leaves people less likely to act autonomously and decreases the motivation to give it their all. Consequently, the company isn’t as remarkably distinguished from competitors as it could be. The experiences it creates are less memorable and influential for all stakeholders.
In some cases, this weakness manifests as a hypocritical culture in which the corporate message to customers does not reflect the actual cultural climate within the company. We’ve seen lack of cultural alignment reveal itself during interviews and/or surveys with employees across the organization. Silos, disparate agendas and lack of alignment must be minimized for any brand development to be effective. Other times, the shared vision and values are there but they need to be amplified and broadcast better so employees can live them out and bring about continued growth.
When processes lack
With strong tools and culture present, teams can execute at a tactical level, since they are more likely to operate from a place of shared purpose and enthusiasm. However, efforts are not channeled as efficiently and productively as they could be.
A common problem we see is mismatched processes and cultural values. For example, one company proclaimed innovation as an important cultural value, yet, bureaucratic processes stifled the spirit of innovation the company hoped to promote. We helped them see this contradiction and rethink their processes in light of their brand. For any company, processes must function not only logistically, but also in support of their brand’s personality and cultural values.
Some startups eventually fall prey to a flat out lack of a defined process. When a company is small, the culture and leaders’ influence can be so strong that developing a process is neglected. Everyone is in contact with the charismatic founder and seems to magically know exactly what to do. However, once the company’s size outgrows the reach of that leader, processes become essential to the company’s secret sauce to empower new team members to deliver the brand experience.
When tools lack
When a company excels in processes and culture, strong systems are in place to keep the ball rolling within the company. This is supported by clarity of purpose, a sense of energy and shared dedication. However, implementation is stunted due to lacking or misaligned tools. These tools can be “soft” tools like brand guidelines to foster the development of appropriate touch points. Tools can be more “hard” technical tools like a particular CRM software that enables a company to live their value of being customer centric. Whatever the case, when these tools are lacking, teams have trouble executing tactics as effectively as they could.
We help our clients create tools that put their brand into action. Brand guidelines help teams consistently express the brand — be it visually or verbally. Having a go-to source for brand expression empowers team members to take the reigns and communicate “on-brand” effectively. We also create value booklets that translate cultural values into clearly defined brand behaviors. Playbooks of this sort provide a tangible reference point for employees to know how to live out the brand on a daily basis. For other companies we have designed value and ethic exercises that managers use quarterly to facilitate regular team discussions to keep their brand in focus.
Power of the trifecta
While a company can see some success without investing heavily in all three of these areas, it’s clear that the most successful performance is achieved by those who invest the time to develop and align the full trifecta.
What does that look like in action? If your brand promises dedication and trust from your client service team, you need to employ a process that empowers your employees to make the call on decisions to serve customers’ needs up to a significant threshold. Employees cannot be expected to “own it” and “solve it” unless the company provides them with relevant messaging and the correct CRM software support. It enables a quicker response to customer needs and garners greater responsibility with trusted frontline employees. Culturally, the vision and values of your company enable employees to make decisions that uphold your brand’s promise without the need for constant oversight.
Similarly, if you want your research team to deliver innovation, the trifecta of delivery plays an important role. Regulatory processes can be set up with fewer steps, so innovation isn’t bogged down. In terms of tools, up-to-date equipment is essential for new research and exploration. Culturally, your driving values must support experimentation and truly be lived out by leaders who aren’t afraid to fail and try again.
Drop one of these three elements and you’ll put a damper on performance that may manifest in many ways — employee turnover, loss of market share and stunted growth are just a few. Address all three, and you set your company up for better performance with more seamlessly aligned teams working toward shared goals.