Category: Culture

Company Culture is your Company Reputation

Building on the theme from yesterday, I am now more motivated than ever by an article on the Fast Company site today: Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch

A number of books on my list this past month (Tribal Leadership and Delivering Happiness to name two) showed me just how critical a true, strong, and real culture is in allowing any organization to step beyond the brand. When a company can step beyond its brand, it has the rare opportunity to demonstrate what it means to be a great, not merely a good, company.

How do you do it? The examples are everywhere, and they all show the same thing – the company comes last.

Ok, so maybe not last, but you get the point. Doing what’s right for the company (and in really bad companies, what’s right for me!) has turned organizations so many companies into examples of corporate inertia: If we keep doing this, maybe they won’t hate us.

How has your company REALLY (no lip service allowed!) put the customer first today?

Can you find an example where the whole company put the customer (not A CUSTOMER) first?

Image courtesy of Jacob Nielsen

Effective Web Performance: The Culture of Performance

A quote from Avinash Kaushik (Occam’s Razor and @avinashkaushik) to start this post.

I have a 10/90 rule . If your budget is $100 then spend $10 on tools and professional services to implement them, and spend $90 on hiring people to analyze data you collect on your website.

The web is quite complex, you are going to access multiple sources of data, you are going to have to do a lot of leg work. Blood, sweat and tears. You don’t just need tools for that (remember 85% of the data you get from any tool, free or paid is essentially the same). You need people!

Hire the best people you can find, tools will never be a limitation for them.

from This I Believe [A Manifesto for Web Marketers & Analysts]

Staring at this as I sipped my coffee stopped me dead.

Beside me I have two full pages of notes on what makes up the Web performance culture of company, and here is one of the most succinct points summed up for me in two short paragraphs.

Web performance is not just about tools and methodologies. Effective Web performance requires dedicated and trained human resources. And those people need to be able to work in a culture that values and understands the importance of Web performance to the business. Without a culture of Web performance, any tool, technology, and methodology purchased to make things better is useless.

In a previous post I touched on the question of whether an organization sees Web performance as a technology or business issue. Answering this question is key to understanding a company’s perspective on Web performance issues.

Start by asking Who is responsible for Web performance? at a company. Is there a cross-functional team that meets regularly to discuss current performance, long-term trends, the competitive landscape, effects on customer experience, and how performance concerns are shaping and guiding upcoming development efforts?

Or is Web performance a set of anonymous charts and tables that have no context ,originating from the inscrutable measurement system, bundled up into an executive report by an unnamed staff member for a once a month meeting?

Most companies understand Web performance is crucial. They understand it affects the bottom line and customer experience. They understand all of the ideas and concepts of Web performance. But like the proverbial horse and water, they don’t drink from the stream in front of them. They don’t drink because they are too busy watching for cougars, wolverines, and poachers. They have too much going on to make Web performance a priority.

Part of developing a strong culture of Web performance is creating a business culture that is customer-centric. When a company turns their perspective around and makes delighting the customer a part of everything they do, the customer experience on the Web becomes a critical component of the culture.

The key to making Web performance a part of a customer-centric culture is to shift Web performance discussions from the abstract (full of numbers and charts representing the potential of Web performance to affect customers) to the real (effect of Web performance on towns and cities and people and the bottom line). Attaching a name, a place, or a value to every number on a Web performance chart makes it easier for people in an organization to absorb the effect it has on them as an employee.

Moving the discussion about Web performance from the testing lab and NOC to the breakroom and the hallway takes a greater effort. It starts by making Web performance data available to all, not just those who are tasked with monitoring it.

A culture of Web performance means that the $90 you spent on people is supplemented by a team of avid amateurs who notice changes and trends that may slip through the cracks. These amateurs are encouraged to participate in Web performance discussions, where the experts are encouraged to listen then contribute.

Why listen to avid amateurs? In many cases, they are the people who work directly with customers and use the products on a daily basis. Their feedback comes from real experience, set alongside abstract values. Once a measurement has a story, it makes it easier to understand the problem.

An example of the success of amateurs is Wikipedia. A population of amateur contributors, as well as a core of experts in certain fields, have ensured that this is a useful resource. A Web performance culture full of avid amateurs allows comments and stories to flow from the customer-centric parts of an organization into the technology and business parts of the organization. These stories and inputs make the Web performance more real, and make a chart in a report more important.

A culture of Web performance is one that is adopted by an entire company. It is a way of examining the reality of a site in a way that is customer-centric and customer-driven. A strong Web performance culture absorbs information from many sources, and filters the data through a customer filter, and makes every measurement count.

 

Modern Business and the Culture of Assurance

I often wonder how much business is lost but the levels of assurance that exist within modern companies.

As information passes through and upward through a company, it is filtered, shaped, refined down to the one salient decision point that all the executives can then discuss. The concern that I have is whether the devolution of detail within organizations stifles their ability to innovate, especially in times of stress.

Small companies have a short distance from those that create and work with the product to the senior levels. As a result, senior managers and executives are tightly tied to the details of the product, of the company, of the customers. They understand that details are important.

Mature companies discuss how their strategies and initiatives will shape an entire industry and change the way everyone does business. But how that happens is often lost as those concepts flow downward. Just as detail devolves on the way up, detail evolves on the way down.

It is nigh on impossible to participate in an industry-defining paradigm shift when your everyday activities double and triple, leading to a complete dissociation between the executive level and the worker level.

Why does this occur?

Its not that detail devolves on the way up an organization, but rather that each level needs to assure each higher level that everything is ok and that solutions can be found for those issues that may be challenging, so lets just keep pressing forward.

So the devolution of detail coupled with the culture of assurance gets too many companies in trouble.

The devil is in the details. And sometimes, the devil can be your friend.

Non-Linear Thought: Leaving you changed

I am noted for having an unusual way of approaching problems. In fact, over a decade ago, someone leaned across the cube wall to me at my first real project and said “I need your non-linear approach to help me solve this problem”.

I still consider that the greatest compliment that I have ever received.
Then I stumbled across this post, which quotes the paper Wicked Problems: Naming the Pain in Organizations

“The natural pattern of human problem solving appears chaotic on the surface, but it is the chaos of an earthquake or the breaking of an ocean wave. It reveals deeper forces and flows that have their own order and pattern. The non-linear pattern of activity that expert designers follow gives us fresh insight into what happens when we work on a complex problem. It reveals that in normal problem-solving behaviour, we may seem to wander about, making only halting progress toward the solution. This non-linear process is not a defect, not a sign of stupidity or lack of training, but rather the mark of a natural learning process. It suggests that humans are oriented more toward learning (a process that leaves us changed) than toward problem solving (a process focused on changing our surroundings).”

Have you and your team solved any wicked problems lately?

Johnnie Moore extracts another salient quote from the original paper. He focuses on the last sentence of the large quote above.

I am searching for those things that leave me changed.

Get this book…if you can

If you want erudite and reasoned analysis of the roots of the current state if US foreign policy, Gwynne Dyer’s Future: Tense would be the book for you. [Funny, Amazon doesn’t seem to carry it.]

It plots the course and rationale for the neo-conservative revolution and its primary objectives: a Pax Americana enforced by special forces and weapons of high technology, and the diminishment (or dissolution) of the UN.

The book makes a strong case that this undertaking will lead to a multi-polar world, with regional blocs of economic-military alliance banded together to mutually defend each other. He draws comparisons to the world prior to the First World War and the spheres of influence in Goerge Orwell’s 1984.

Yummy good read.


May 22: Hmmm, the ideas in the book are pretty much spot on. Not bad for 18 years ago. All he missed was the climate crisis and the water wars.

Bill Moyers — Democracy in the Balance

This article is a must read. It is a view of America, still framed in a christian context, but using the concepts of inclusion, not exclusion.

It is hard for me to look upon the neo-con, “Right-Wing” Christians (I use the capital letter purposefully — look for the to follow the word shortly) and place them in a christian context. They preach hate, disrespect, disregard and exlusion to their followers. It is as though christianity has been divided again, into those who deeply understand the word of Christ, and those who nominally use the word of Christ to divide a nation in their image.

Evangelical Christianity is a sham. It is a disgusting way for the nation to drive the United States back into the 18th century, where freedom was a measured thing, only available to the “right” people.

Link: Democracy in the Balance, Sojourners Magazine/August 2004.

But America is a broken promise, and we are called to do what
we can to fix it – to get America back on the track. St.
Augustine shows us how: “One loving soul sets another on
fire.” But to move beyond sentimentality, what begins in
love must lead on to justice. We are called to the fight of our
lives.

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