Peter Drucker, the famous management thinker, professor and author is widely attributed as saying “Culture eats strategy over breakfast”.
Moreover, these words are frequently quoted by people who see culture at the heart of all great companies, particularly those ones that are lauded for their customer service and being able to deliver a consistently excellent customer experience, like for example John Lewis, Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, Zappos etc.
However, in many cases culture, like strategy, when implemented often suffers from ‘over-engineering’ or becoming too complicated that any culture change programme or initiative becomes it’s own barrier to success.
Therefore, there is value and power is keeping your culture and values as simple as possible.
Case study or scenario of the insight in action
One fast-growing UK company success story that typifies this approach is Hawksmoor, a rapidly growing restaurant brand in London & Manchester.
In an industry that is typified by high staff turnover and low levels of employee engagement the fact that Hawksmoor was voted No.12 in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for in 2015 is testament to their approach and what they have achieved.
Will Beckett, founder of Hawksmoor, believes that their customer service and success is driven by happy people all striving for the same high standards. A key element of that is Hawksmoor’s culture, which they describe as “Work hard and be nice to people”.
Will, in an interview, goes on to say about their culture:
- They encourage their staff to embrace their individual personalities as they will be happier at work and create a friendlier and better environment for customers.
- Hawksmoor are aware that many people are not happy at work and tend to have to ‘change’ when they ‘clock in’ to become ‘professional’ versions of themselves. They then revert back to their real selves when they leave. Hawksmoor go the other way and invite their employees to come and be a good version of yourself.
- That means that each table in their restaurants get a slightly different customer experience dependent on the waiter/waitress they get but the standards will be the same.
- This has helped Hawksmoor attract and retain great people.
- Will believes that Hawksmoor’s primary role is to make sure their staff are happy and their staff’s primary role is to make sure that the customers are happy.
- Finally, Hawksmoor believe that if they find people that can ‘work hard and be nice to people’ then they can pretty much teach them everything else.
What to do next/Action points
Simplifying your culture, like Hawksmoor has done, is not easy but it is worth the effort.
This is typified by a saying attributed to Blaise Pascal where he said:
“Please forgive the long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.”
To do that, here’s a few things that you can do to help:
- Consider replicating, modifying or plain out copying Hawksmoor’s culture statement if it works for your business;
- If not, find and articulate your own simple culture statement but make sure that it’s no longer than 7-10 words in length; and
- Match your culture statement with a set of standards that you want your employees to strive for.