Want to Innovate? It Starts With Your Corporate CultureJohn Kispert
If managing corporate culture isn’t already at the top of your CEO to-do list, it should be. As Edgar Schein, author of Organizational Culture and Leadership, put it: “The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.”
Developing and fostering a strong corporate culture isn’t simple, and there’s no one recipe to success. One of the most important aspects of corporate culture is encouraging employees to embrace change. The business environment is always changing, and leadership’s job is to ensure that the organization adapts and evolves to meet those changes.
About three years ago, Spansion underwent a massive transformation that required us to work through some significant changes. We had to create a sustainable business model by changing our strategy and capital structure while remaining focused on product quality and customer service. This took agility: All employees had to focus on product innovation, following an uncertain period where we were not sure we could meet payroll or deliver products to customers who were counting on us. We were able to work through this change, become profitable, and deliver several technology industry firsts over the past few years. Without this metamorphosis, we would not be where we are today. How did we do it? Here are three guiding principles:
Be accountable to each other. When undergoing change, accountability is indispensable. The word has a negative connotation—your job is to make it positive. Recognize your employee’s individual passions and give them more responsibilities and challenges aligned to that. Make your workers accountable to each other. In doing so, you ensure that employees accept the responsibility to deliver against commitments, igniting a culture of success and rewards for all.
Promote open communication and trust. Trust and communication within a company builds stronger teams and accountability. Communicate your values, strategy, goals, and expectations frequently. Don’t just focus on the good; be upfront about the bad, too. Include all employees—not just your direct reports. Employees want to feel like a member of the team, and part of that is feeling constantly connected from the top down. People will work harder for the leaders that do this.
Be decisive and take risks. Remember your job description. Be the leader. Make the strategic and sometimes difficult decisions, and do so with urgency. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Small failures are inevitable, but missing out on your next big opportunity could be huge. When it comes down to it, it’s how you respond to the losses and move on that will define your success.