THE BLOG
10/10/2013 05:54 pm ET | Updated Dec 10, 2013

Chief Culture Officer Buys Success

The Only Constant Is Change.

Today, the one constant you can anticipate in business is change. Need proof? Just look around. Companies can rise and fall in under twelve months. Adored global brands can be wiped out in less than four years, leaving them worthless to their investors. All the while, the old, siloed business model -- fear-based, power-driven, propelled by the belief that gain requires pain -- is dying.

In its place? The necessity for visionary, innovative, and caring leaders. The call for leadership that is authentic, collaborative, highly agile, fair, and purpose-driven. Customers expect it. Stockholders benefit from it. And teams are begging for it.

And yet the greatest prerequisite for effective leadership is self-actualization. Leaders must mature themselves, grow their teams, and deepen their customer relationships. Those who have chosen to apply this new approach are seeing radical results: they're not just surviving; they're thriving.

Innovation And Culture Fuel Organizational Success.

The critical need for companies to innovate -- plus the rise of globalization and its underlying assumption that, in the world of competitive business, only the biggest players survive -- has created an unprecedented era of mergers and acquisitions, as well as crushing pressure to stay ahead of your competitor's next new, big idea.

The result? The building, managing, and merging of cultures has become a full-time job in the new economy. These demands now exceed the capacities of most HR divisions, and call for a new kind of specialist -- someone who works externally (a "Culture Expert") or internally (a "Chief Culture Officer") with companies of all sizes in order to manage culture and ensure their positive growth.

Few leaders possess the deep knowledge and extensive experience to manage the task of bridging these worlds.

Innovation Is Born Out Of Certain Cultural Conditions.

The number one reason most companies fail? They couldn't keep up with the pace of innovation. BlackBerry is just the latest example. Like it or not, innovation is born out of a set of cultural conditions that encourages the human psyche to generate the next great idea and/or solve a complex problem quickly. If your team can't function at this level of mature leadership competencies, your company is vulnerable to demise.

The number one reason most M&A's fail? The inability of the two companies to marry and integrate their cultures. The poster child for this was AOL/Time Warner's failed merger in 2000, when $2 billion of stakeholder value was lost and many professional lives were ruined. (More than a decade later, business schools are still studying it.) At the core of the catastrophe? A monumental clash of cultures.

Building A Strong Culture Is Complex Terrain.

Often the company being acquired is the innovator: born through vision, agility, and a desire to make a difference in the world. Oftentimes the parent company has a giant global footprint that requires a different set of operating principles. Both have to be respected and utilized for the combined greater good. This is complex terrain; it calls out for a professional culture expert -- a culture guru whose knowledge in this area is on par with those held by the CEO, CFO, and COO.

If a merger fails, everyone loses. For the innovator, however, the failure is one of entrepreneurship, which can be catastrophic to the business community and the world at large.

Consistent Cultural Transformation Is The Name Of The Game.

For any winning company, contiguous cultural transformation must be part of its organizational strategy -- and the unfortunate truth is that few companies are prepared to do it right.

'Human capital' is an organization's tallying of all the knowledge, competencies, and social and personality attributes -- including creativity -- that collectively create the ability to perform labor and produce economic value. It has another word: people. The happier people are, the healthier your team is, the greater rewards your company will see. The data is undeniable.

Here's a quote from Jim Collins' top-selling book, Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't:

Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.

From Corporate Culture and Performance, John Kotter and James Heskett's groundbreaking Harvard Business School book:

The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture. If you don't, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening. Un-adaptive cultures will have an even larger negative financial impact in the coming decade.

My recommendation for your organizations success is simple. Find a captain for your culture ship. Make that person part of your C-suite. Then empower him or her with all the resources they need to leverage the full potential of your people.

Debbie Robins, M.A. - www.debbierobins.com