Execs Need To Focus More On Culture

Here’s an excerpt from Bruce Nussbaum’s recent blog post on BusinessWeek called Chrysler, Culture and Cerberus:

The Obama Administration’s lead car guy, Steven Rattner, is a Wall Street investment banker who lives by numbers and it makes sense to him to basically give Chrysler to Fiat to save American jobs. But neither he, nor Nardelli nor President Obama understand that cars and car organizations are all about culture, not numbers.

In the post, Bruce poses the question of whether it’s more important to manage a business by the numbers or to manage the culture. Great question!

My take: I wrote a post about Bob Nardelli’s reign at Home Depot called Home Depot Still Has A Spark Of Customer Centricity which was a follow-on to a post that looked at how Frank Blake (who replaced Nardelli) was trying to rebuild Home Depot’s customer-centric culture. These represent a case study about the potential downfall of  “numbers-driven” management style.

Here’s the comment that I left on the BusinessWeek blog:

The problem is that you need to manage both; culture and numbers. Over the last few decades, however, executives have overdosed on the numbers. So it leads to situations where leaders like Nardelli sap the soul out of Home Depot because they don’t understand culture.

Times have changed, but management has not kept up. That’s why I wrote a mini book called “The 6 New Management Imperatives: Leadership Skills For A Radically Changed Business Environment.” The first imperative is: “Invest in culture as a corporate asset.”

The bottom line: Culture is an undermanaged asset.

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey.

Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum.

My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers.

I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

2 thoughts on “Execs Need To Focus More On Culture”

  1. Bruce I agree that both have to be managed, unfortunately many executives do not understand what culture is let alone how to measure and manage it in the same way that they manage the numbers. We had a discussion with a client today about the impact their culture was having on their ability to deliver great customer service and meet the expectations that different customers had in different markets. Their challenge was they had two different cultures that had developed around different customer needs and they were trying to blend them with limited success.
    In this case a the first step is to uncover the cultural differences, surface them so people are aware of them and then work on solutions.

    1. Christopher: I’ve been so busy that I’ve neglected my commenting. Culture is such a mysterious concept to many executives. But I am getting more demand from clients to understand what it takes to create a customer-centric culture. So That’s a good sign. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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