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When your culture is your product

How can we be trustworthy in a so-called season change, where the mechanisms of the modern workplace are being established as we go along; when there is no best practice or code-of-conduct to hand out?

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

Many of us are in the business of inspiring, advising, and influencing people, maybe as service providers, IT consultants, gig workers, or sales people. It is very clear, that our business landscape is far blurrier than five or ten years ago. The rules of business are changing, the technology stack develops and shifts fast, and discussions of ethics and moral are widespread in the media.

How can we be trustworthy in a so-called season change, where the mechanisms of the modern workplace are being established as we go along; when there is no best practice or code-of-conduct to hand out? What it is actually that you’re buying when the products keep shifting and sliding? What does successful business look like?

Redefining business – and success

Currently I’m in the airport, travelling to a customer to help them redefine success of the white-collar worker. As many other organizations and leadership groups they have seen the need to redefine their business, and to readjust their understanding of what success is. What has become clear is an omnipresent shift from product-focus to problem solving-focus, from more to better, and from transactions to partnerships. Clearly, this both demands and enables a more genuine and wholeheartedly approach to the relationship between the customer and organization, and between the employee and the leader.

With a fast-moving tech world and a society that focuses increasingly more on sustainability and ethics, solutions are created in the togetherness of the parties, taking into account the input and experience of both the customer and the vendor. This means, that in some areas of the problem/opportunity-spectrum there are no of-the-shelf-products or best practice-approach to apply, but bespoke and current practice-solutions must be prototyped, tested, evaluated, and rolled out.

This also means, that the customer-vendor relationship changes shape and becomes more of a partner-partner relation, with mutual ownership for the problem we’re solving together. This stresses the need for a well-defined and constantly nurtured culture; a culture that defines and describes your approach to curiosity, knowledge-sharing, genuine care and interest in people, and fairness. This is where your culture becomes your product.

Successful business is about relationships

Culture is all about behaviour to me: How you ask questions, give feedback, involve and include stakeholders, are transparent, and tackle conflict. This approach to people is one of your finest assets, and it should be treated as your key product: Your approach to the strategy, the innovation, the culture, the teaming, and to leadership should be so inspiring and trustworthy, that it paves the way both for the specific problem solving and for a long-lasting relationship with the customer.

When you understand that HOW you do things is even more important than WHAT you do, your interaction with your stakeholders and shareholders change. I have seen it several times in action, and it’s amazing how the energy shifts in the room, and how the parties open for each other, share insight and personal anecdotes, and smiles. Success is now refined in the ability to create solutions together, not in how talented or skilled the two parties are.

Understanding that culture is your product changes the way you handle your internal processes and how you identify yourself as an organization and as employee.

Finally, it requires that culture must be guided by a roadmap, with actions and projects, with shared engagement, and with a steady rhythm for progress, just as classic IT products and deliveries are.

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