The Culture Factor

No single person owns or controls it. Its exact nature is hard to pin down. Yet its influence is everywhere. And sooner or later, anyone working to drive change in a complex organization runs up against it. What can you do to make this run-in successful? And how should you, as marketing leader, be thinking about culture—and putting those thoughts into practice? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Long seen as the domain of HR, culture is now catching the attention of business leaders in general and CMO’s in particular. In a recent survey by Spencer Stuart, 53% of marketing leaders said that that the CMO is“very responsible” for shaping not just the culture of their team but that of the broader organization
  • Marie Gulin-Merle, CMO of Calvin Klein, sums up the most clear-cut reason: “The consumer side of marketing cannot be different from the culture side of the company, because customers can smell if there are two worlds. It’s part of the CMO’s role to ensure they’re consistent.”
  • Others point to the importance of culture in creating a more customer-centric organization.
  • And many now recognize its vital role in innovation and digital transformation.

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  • All well and good, but … what IS culture, exactly? And how does it work? If you’re thinking seriously about these questions, this recent HBR piece—which pulls together a lot of fresh research on the subject—is a great place to start.
  • Once you’ve given yourself a solid grounding on the subject, how you turn theory into practice will depend on your goal. It’s about building culture into your plans for change, whatever that desired change looks like. A solid example: Diageo’ssystematic efforts to create a culture of creativity.
  • One final tip: don’t be afraid to start small. There may be a valid argument for marketing taking more ownership of culture overall. But before you climb that mountain, why not try some baby steps closer to home? One possible starting point: ateam charter is great way to bring a team together and formalize their unique way of working together.


Word of Wisdom

If you’re ever wondering what impact you as a leader have on workplace culture, consider this perspective.

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Try this

The culture map is simple tool for assessing and understanding your current culture—and identifying opportunities for positive change.

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Issue #72
Jun 30, 2019

Further Reading