Peter Drucker

Culture for Lunch.


Culture for LunchAs part of our Leadership agenda at next month’s Seller Forum, we’ll we hosting an interactive discussion called ‘Culture Doesn’t Just Happen.’ With that in mind, I’m reposting a few thoughts on culture from May 2010.

Organizational guru Peter Drucker famously wrote that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Our industry as a whole has a big job ahead when it comes to instilling an empowering culture – a task that’s equally critical to individual companies and teams.  Here are two quick suggestions for any business leader — agency, media owner, service provider, whatever — who’s looking to create a winning culture in the digital media, marketing and ad-tech world.

Engagement: When I look into the eyes of young people in our business, I too often see a weary detachment, a sense that this is all temporary.  Very few feel a real sense of engagement or belonging to their companies.  Read some of Gallup’s work in this area (“Engaged Leadership” is a good start) and pay attention:  the difference between “I’m a part of this!” and “I’m out of here!” is actually pretty subtle.

Compensation: Think creatively and holistically about compensation; it’s very rarely all about dollars and options.  Have a conversation with your employees — individually — about the things that would make their lives easier and more enriched.  Your support of a personal charity, a non-traditional work schedule, the pursuit of a personal ‘big idea’ or achievement can be worth far more than the additional cash the marketplace is using to woo your best people away.

Without great culture, great technology or ideas rarely succeed over the long term.  The active disruption of staff attrition and the quiet crisis of employee disengagement are too strong of an undertow.  Look up from the quarter you’re in the middle of and look into the eyes of your team members.  An empowering culture is not something that just happens.

If you lead a national or regional digital media sales organization request your invitation to the Fall Seller Forum – “Leadership is Not Optional” — or call us at 802.985.2500 for more details. Two thirds of our available spots are already taken, so save yours today.


All Clear.


A friend recently forwarded a link to “Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch,” Shawn Parr’s contribution to the Fast Company blog.  The title, of course, is a riff on Peter Drucker’s famous maxim that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  (But then Drucker was probably more of a morning person.)  As I consult and conduct workshops with hundreds of companies in the digital advertising and marketing world, the wisdom and urgency of this shared theme is inescapable.

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As the marketplace continues to morph and convulse at an astonishing pace, company leaders and sales managers are constantly adjusting their strategies, if not changing them outright.  But as wrenching and deep as these strategic shifts may appear at ground level, most end up having little or no lasting effect.  Like a house built on sand, they lack the solid foundation that a quality culture can provide.  Parr rightly points out that “culture” is misunderstood (considered intangible and fluffy) and mismanaged (relegated to Human Resources) in most companies and in most industries.  But I think it’s a particularly acute shortcoming in our world….and I think I know why.

Prisoners of Our Own Success. Many digital CEOs and sales leaders came into their own during times of prosperity.  It all came together for us “in the day,” so everybody just do what we’re doing and we’ll all be OK.

Rapid Ascent, Rapid Change. Ironically, we point to the pace of change and rapid buildout of our companies – the very reasons we so desperately need to establish cultures – as the reason we can’t afford the time to develop them.  Culture is something we’ll focus on once we’re established.

Perhaps some of this is inescapable:  given our backgrounds and the ever-changing landscape, maybe textbook culture development isn’t attainable.  (I don’t completely believe this, but I’ll go with it for now.)  But maybe it’s time to meet Peter Drucker halfway and focus on the one principle that will establish a beachhead of stable culture within most any company or team.

Clarity.

In “The One Thing You Need to Know,” Marcus Buckingham points out that great leaders may not always be right, but they are always clear.  And the thing they are most clear about is “Who Does Our Company Serve?” There’s only one right answer, but you’re likely to hear a half dozen if you informally poll your team members.  A clear statement like “We serve brands” will go a long way.  While you’re at it, here are a two more topics on which you should be aim to be especially clear:

What Business Are We In? The railroads famously got this wrong.  Had they said “logistics and transportation” instead of “running trains,” they’d be FedEx and Delta Airlines today.

How Do We Create Value? The operative word here is “create.”  The answer to this question is often masked by the mindless pursuit of product advancement.  Far more often, we create value through service innovation, insight generation and synthesis.   Good topic to spend some time on.

You may not be in a position to establish the culture of a Starbucks, Zappo’s or Home Depot, but you can convene your management team for a couple of hours around these three points of clarity.  If you don’t,  you may just continue throwing strategies at the problem without ever addressing its underlying cause.


The Culture Wars.


I’m posting this from the iMedia Agency Summit in Austin, where I’ll be giving this morning’s keynote on “The Tyranny of Dead Internet Ideas.” But these thoughts are based on yesterday’s keynote by Starcom USA CEO Lisa Donohue.

Among many other provocative, challenging and sometimes inspirational memes, Lisa addressed the issue of agency — and industry — culture.  She tossed in a gem from organizational guru Peter Drucker:  “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Starcom, other agencies, and our industry as a whole have a big job ahead when it comes to instilling an empowering culture in our business.   You’ll be able to access Lisa’s remarks on the iMedia Connection website, so I won’t recount them all here.  I just want to add two of my own suggestions for any business leader — agency, media owner, service provider, whatever — who’s looking to create a winning culture in the digital media and  marketing world.

Engagement: When I look into the eyes of young people in our business, I too often see a weary detachment, a sense that this is all temporary.  Very few feel a real sense of engagement or belonging to their companies.  Read some of Gallup’s work in this area (“Engaged Leadership” is a good start) and pay attention:  the difference between “I’m a part of this!” and “I’m out of here!” is actually pretty subtle.

Compensation: Think creatively and holistically about compensation; it’s very rarely all about dollars and options.  Have a conversation with your employees — individually — about the things that would make their lives easier and more enriched.  Your support of a personal charity, a non-traditional work schedule, the pursuit of a personal ‘big idea’ or achievement can be worth far more than the additional cash the marketplace is using to woo your best people away.

Without great culture, great technology or ideas rarely succeed over the long term.  The active disruption of staff attrition and the quiet crisis of employee disengagement are too strong of an undertow.  Look up from the quarter you’re in the middle of and look into the eyes of your team members.  An empowering culture is not something that just happens.