Ashton Media
Marketing & Customer Experience Hub

The cultural elements of control, relationship and development

In April, 2014, more than 150 customer experience, data, marketing and business leaders participated in the first Customer 360 Symposium run by Ashton Media.

This is the third of six posts based on a presentation given by Corporate Anthropologist, Michael Henderson  who shared fascinating insights into the nature of culture and why more organisations should be tapping into this to improve customer engagement.

In the last post, Michael looked at looked at  the connection between organisation culture and team dynamics.

In today’s post, Michael looks at the cultural elements of control, relationship and development.

Michael Henderson part 3

Inside each and every single culture on the planet, and I’m talking everybody from the Zulu to Girl Guides to your organisation, to Google, every single  culture operates on three underlying dynamics.

1. Controlling the circle

You’re trying to control something and normally what you’re trying to control is the circumference of the circle as a protector. Do we have enough fences  up? Have we got our horns in place? Or in marketing terms, it’s, what does our brand look like?

When somebody comes into touch, how welcoming, rewarding and receptive is that experience for them?

2. Relationships between tribe members

We’re trying to control the relationship we have with ourselves in amongst the people in the tribe, but also the tribe’s relationship with the outer world  and whether we’re relating to it effectively enough in changing and are adapting quickly enough.

Even organisations as powerful and as impressive as Proctor and Gamble, are having problems with this. Their inner  formation of the circle is not making them adaptive enough in the world around them.

3. Developing, changing and adapting

Finally, the third element of every single culture in the world is the extent to which you are developing, changing and adapting to the world around you.  If you’ve ever heard that expression, “But we’ve always done it this way”, you soon realise that the circle has become very cemented and structured and it  probably means you’re going to be in trouble in the future.

Play amateur anthropologist for a week

With the combination of control, relate and develop elements, what I’d almost encourage you to do, if this is of any interest to you, is play amateur  anthropologist when you go back into the workplace over the next 7 or 8 days.

Carry a little notebook around. I give you full anthropological permission to do this. Carry a little notebook around and just look for the evidence of  where your organisation is trying to control something, could be cash flow, could be debtors, could be absenteeism, it could be performance through  360s.

Look at how you’re trying to relate and that’ll obviously be areas that are very familiar to a lot of you in terms of how you’re relating to your  customers. But also internally, things like, is there evidence of silo mentality showing up inside your organisation?

And the third area, what’s going on development wise? I’m not just talking about R and D. I’m not just talking about the processes that come out of R and  D; I’m actually talking about the individual growth of human beings within the company.

In other words, is your organisation developing its people effectively enough? The reason you want to pose that question is, can your organisation grow  commercially if the people inside it don’t? Can your business grow commercially; say within the next 12-24 months, if the people inside it don’t personally  grow? Change their attitude, increase their awareness, get over themselves, drop some of the arrogance, some of the habitual behaviours that are no longer  serving them, etc?

It’s a very powerful consideration to take and explore. So just go play amateur anthropologist in those three areas and you will start to reveal the  culture you have created which may not have been necessarily what was designed or even intended. But it gives you a reality check of what’s going on.

How does this all play out?

Hopefully you can’t read this (slide) because I don’t want you to get too distracted but there’s some real science behind this so I’m not just making up  anthropological mythology here.

There’s 128 human values that we know of that comprise and are common in cultures all around the world. So there are 128 values that fall into those three  categories.

A group of those values about having a sense of control – controlling the food supply, water, timber, livestock, trade, etc., traditionally – nowadays it’s  things like controlling cash flow, revenue, etc.

The second value as I said earlier is about relating and how you choose to relate to each other? Is that arrogantly? Do you choose to relate through  competition or do you choose to relate through cooperation, empathy, creativity, etc?

And the third area is development values. What are the values you’ve selected as the touch points through which you are going to push yourselves, explore  yourselves, grow yourselves and extend yourselves?

Getting the right combination of those mix of values inside your culture will literally dictate whether you’re still here in a decade or not and it will  dictate how many of your customers are with you over the next 36 months, because if that is out of alignment with where the market’s values are, you will  start to get ditched in favour or somebody that’s got a better alignment.

What would you prefer to experience?

I know it sounds sort of hidden and touchy-feely but this is actually what drives economics. Sitting fundamentally under this whole global economic, are  human values and a human value is simply this; your preference, what would you prefer to experience?

Multiplied by how important for you is it to experience that? Your personal human values are based on what would you prefer to experience? Let me give you  an example.

How many of you would prefer to be healthy? Show of hands. Yeah, me too. Multiply the priority you place on it, in other words, if I’d been filming you  with a video camera, grabbing ethno-graphic research over the last 48 hours, how much evidence would I have on film now, that you’re serious about that  health?

I can hear some of you going, “now that’s not fair, I’m at a conference, I’m away from the family and the missus, my boyfriend’s back there, so I don’t  normally drink that much. And I normally go for a triathlon training run every morning, this is my chance to have a lie in and go to the spa”. What you’re  really saying is how you’re living your life. Is it in prioritisation of your preferences or are you doing something different?

Aligning strategy with culture

This is the difference between strategy, the promise you’re making to your customers and brand, and culture, and what actually gets delivered on a day to  day basis. It’s very rare for an organisation to have its culture completely in alignment with its strategy or priorities completely in alignment with  preferences.

When you get that, magic happens and you become world famous as an organisation and every organisation that you’ve heard of that is world famous for  performing well and treating its people well, has done exactly that. That’s aligning strategy to culture.

The moment you don’t, you have all sorts of challenges, all sorts of problems and all sorts of financial restrictions placed on you.

So where does this take us all and what does it mean in terms of strategic implication and is there a real connection between culture and strategy?

In the next post, Michael examines the connection between organisation culture and strategy.

View the full presentation here:

Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media About Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media
Mark is Content Director at Ashton Media. It's his job to create interesting and engaging conference programs that stretch the thinking of our attendees. Mark works closely with our industry advisors to ensure the conference content is aligned with the needs and interests of our audiences.