Understanding the complex relationships between the inside perceptions of your organization and its culture and the equally vital external perceptions of those same elements is the key to empowering long-term strategic growth and expansion. If you do not have a good reference for both aspects of this crucial data, it’s impossible to develop a plan of any kind to expand your company’s growth and improvement.
Unfortunately, in modern international business and organizational cultures, the need to gather data on external perceptions of the organization has never really been accepted at the senior management or leadership level.
Certainly, most organizations recognize the need to gather data on internal workforce/employee perceptions of how the company is operating and where it might improve. They carry this out even if they don’t always do a good job of gathering the data or, worse, don’t use the data that was gathered effectively or at all.
Why do you need to measure this benchmark? Because your organizational DNA is the foundation of your organizational culture. It IS what creates the internal atmosphere, working environment and either builds or damages employee loyalty, performance and eventually the organization’s performance as a whole.
Why Typical Organizational DNA Studies Get Poor Test Results
The problem with the current methodologies employed to provide analytical data on organizational culture (DNA) and related areas is that they do not build in any viable method of collecting, analyzing and validating the vital other side of this coin. It’s relatively straight forward to survey and gather data on external perceptions, feelings and feedback on the organization by those who have to deal with it, work with it or interface with it.
However, because of the nature of the relationship been any level of upper management and the “workforce,” gathering that same set of data from internal sources is more often than not extremely difficult if not impossible. This is because of the natural reticence or even fear embodied within the workforce to offer accurate and unfiltered feedback. Most people do not want to create tension or awkwardness between themselves and those for whom they work.
The Real World
Therefore, the vast majority of companies, whether they are manufacturers, distributors, integrators, houses of worship, service providers or any of the myriad other business types that make up our global industry, never find out what their workforce and employees actually think. Or even worse, they never really understand what they may have to do to improve the company or increase profitability or efficiency or any other target goal.
If they do actually get solid information about employee mindsets, it’s gathered during an EXIT interview, when the people involved are not seeking useful information, only a smooth transition between employed and not.
The vast majority of companies NEVER actually step back and conduct any kind of analysis that would help specifically identify the core company DNA — the things, practices, capabilities, processes, skills and other areas that make them unique from any other business in the same or related market spaces.
How to Get Valid Data and Useful Information
The key to being able to conduct a study and measure our own organizational DNA, and then use that information to improve company culture, performance and results is to find a clear and anonymous method of obtaining valid information. This means a method that permits detailed interviews with both the external stakeholders and the internal staff below the ownership/executive level.
In essence, you need to be able to conduct “exit interviews” with existing employees from the warehouse to the front office, and combine that information with the outside sources and data to produce a complete picture of any company’s status with everyone involved.
While it’s feasible to survey people directly, remember that the people who want to protect their jobs may not actually tell you the whole truth or express their deep-seated opinions or feelings for fear of possible negative impact, no matter how much anonymity is ensured.
How Do You Do This?
There is a viable method to do this and protect people at the same time, thus producing more valid data and more useful insights. It requires deploying a methodology that essentially creates an “individual shield” process wherein individual employee or customer responses are never directly identified within the final report. In the majority of cases, this means employing a neutral third-party entity to actually do the survey and data tabulation, thus building a barrier between the people, the data and the company senior management and allowing a far more realistic picture of the overall situation to be created.
This approach allows the gathering of good information on perceptions, beliefs, problems and both positive and negative aspects of any organization’s operations and interactions with both customer/distributors/end-users, and their own staff.
Instead of only seeing some of the picture, users of this process find out what’s actually happening across their entire operation, and often discover substantial enhancements that could be made or process improvements that could be implemented simply by asking the right questions of the right people.
The core issue for any company is that both the inside and external realities have to do with all the things your business does that makes you valuable to your customers. The inside reality is about what you do and what you are that allows your business to perform better. It’s what gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. The reason we call it the inside reality is because the reality of what you do and the customers’ perception of what you do aren’t necessarily the same. The outside perception is how customers and prospects perceive your company and is developed by all of the interactions people have with your company.
Turning This Information Into a Sustainable Competitive Advantage
Work to create an inside reality that embodies everything your customers want and need as identified in your external studies. Then, when the outside perception of your organization accurately reflects that amazing inside reality, you can monopolize your marketplace!
As was noted earlier, the key to successfully exploring this topic is to find an outside-the-organization neutral third party to conduct the interviews and tabulate the data.
Often accounting and advisory firms will offer this capability, as will commercial survey and data collection providers. Additionally, small market research firms such as our own often will provide this service as an enhancement to other work.
You need to explore the available possibilities within your own area and carefully analyze and vet any potential provider for security, accuracy and capability to deliver the need information.
Once you locate a resource, jump in and find out where you really stand.