Where is the intersection of culture and efficiency?

There is a lot spoken these days about the value of culture. Separately there is a lot spoken about the value of efficiency and getting things done. Even further there is a lot spoken about the value of leadership in making sure that the things that need to happen happens.

All three of these concepts merge because leaders foster culture and define the actions that people perform (efficiently or not). Within a culture employees strive to get things done while also furthering the cultural norms of the organization and seeking to satisfy their leaders. It’s the circle of business. Lead, perform, live, lead.

For the past 10 years, I have sought, and watched other seek, the definition of efficiency and productivity. There were many brave attempts to find metrics or benchmarks seeking to prove improvement or to quantify the qualifiable. The closest I ever came to putting a true definition in place was by comparing team outputs and trying to understand the relative impacts of the leaders versus the soldiers bravely soldiering on. Some would invariably be consistently better but ultimately my conclusions were inconclusive because individual performances are nearly impossible to compare.

However, in those 10 years I have seen some cultures foster performance that others struggled to achieve. I’ve also seen how a change in culture can destroy performance even when the teams remain the same. Sometimes the simplest changes destroy and chaos can lead to something amazing.

In all of this I’ve come to believe that there is a need to align culture with the team. The best way I can articulate it is to compare back to sports teams. Sometimes a coach’s philosophy is antithetical to the peak performance of his team and leads to suboptimal performance. Other times a coach comes into a new environment and immediately makes a team better than anyone ever expected them to be. Alignment of culture and performers is the real value.

Amazingly this concept still seems to work at an organizational level. When an entire organization is built around the same ideas and performance concepts their collective contributions are greater than they should be in isolation.

I don’t know if there is a science to performing this alignment but I will definitely be investing a bit more time over the next decade looking into it.


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