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Culture shifts live or die with clarity and information flow

I've witnessed more attempted culture shifts during which the leader charges off in a new direction only to discover that his culture is still locked on the old heading. That occurs when employees lack the clarity on why the company changed course. There was no detailed mission plan or map to follow. There was no information flow to share progress or challenges. In such cases, it doesn't take long for the change initiative and culture shift to sputter and fizzle out. Yes, culture shifts can collapse in an instant.

It is vital that you understand the complexities of the task ahead. Rest assured, a culture shift will occur in your company. It will require tremendous energy and relentless focus from you and your leadership team, most being expended in the early implementation stages. It’s the equivalent of turning a massive aircraft carrier around. All of the forward momentum of the ship must be shifted in a new direction ... and maintained until it aligns on the new course heading. More importantly, that wide turn and new heading must be free of any navigational hazards. Yes, in business you must be prepared for the unexpected, but plotting the best course that is free of hazards certainly improves the odds of achieving your goals.

WARNING: If you equate shifting a business culture to a speedboat making a 360-degree, full-throttle turn - you just compromised. Culture shifts take time - significantly more time than you might realize.

Good or bad, fast or slow, your company is currently on a specific course heading. Like the captain of that aircraft carrier, you are responsible for keeping your company on the right course. More importantly, you are responsible for the culture that shapes the collective behavior and thinking of your employees. If that course heading needs to change, you need to communicate that change to all employees - and do so with absolute clarity. If that new no-compromise course takes your company into uncharted waters, you need to communicate the why, where, how and when of this change. You must ensure that your team’s focus is at high alert, your systems are ready to engage and the necessary resources are at hand. Everyone must be in perfect sync on where you are going to take the company. Absolutely everyone. No compromise.

Information flow in a company must be fast, furious and relentless. It must flow to everyone at every level. Remember, I’m not talking about distributing an internal bulletin or meeting once a month, I’m talking about daily updates on scoreboards, status, progress, wins, challenges and team success stories. Don’t expect to complete a major culture shift by making a grand presentation at a general meeting and following it up with a few memos. Think of a war room at the Pentagon with its constant inflow and outflow of real-time data. Want to win a war? Then your information and intelligence - your information-flow system - must be up to the task. It’s no different in business. If you stifle information flow, you can kiss your culture shift good-bye.

A simple information-flow acid test
Take a walk around your company and randomly ask employees if they can tell you what a company goal is for the current month and what the progress is to reach that goal? Chances are, you’ll see just how inadequate your information-flow systems are.

One of our best consulting clients did just that to test his systems and was shocked. When he asked some employees in the break-room what some of the numbers on the scoreboard meant, they didn’t know. This is a business that has been doing daily huddles and scoreboards for years. It was a wake-up call that their information-flow systems needed beefing up.

Information flow connects your employees to your critical numbers and the overall goals of the company. Too often, information flow is under utilized or overlooked when, in reality, it is the key driver to achieving a successful and lasting culture shift. What does your information-flow system look like now? Where is it lacking and what needs immediate fixing?

Remember, you’re taking your company on an exciting voyage and everyone on board needs key information on progress, resources available and consumed, and what is and isn’t working. Chances are, there might be holes in your information-flow system. Find them and fix them.

Information flow brings understanding and clarity. It eliminates the “but I thought...” or, "I didn’t know...” excuses that occur when a company engages in a major change initiative. Scoreboards are a must. You must be able to answer these key scoreboard implementation questions:

  • Who will design them?

  • Who will update them daily?

  • Where will you strategically place them so all employees can watch the action and keep score?

  • When, where and what time will team huddles take place?

  • What’s the hit list of key information that will be communicated at huddles?

  • What are the non-negotiable rules for huddle attendance?

Take the clarity and information flow process seriously. No compromise.


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