This week the Sydney Morning Herald published an article I wrote about values. Anyone that has worked with me knows that I am a strong believer in values and their role in business success. I wanted to summarise these beliefs for the wider business community in the hope that it might provide some balance to the picture, because I feel that far too often there is too much talk about measurement and data and KPIs when there are some other less tangible factors that are harder to measure but nevertheless important to doing well. Here is the article:
“We’re told running a successful business is all about growth, profit, measurement and accountability. ROI, KPIs and Big Data mean that everything we do is measured to the enth degree and constant reviews of the business and our performance within it are critical to staying on track.
For the most part this has made us focused and disciplined, which is a good thing. But along the way there are some elements that we’ve forgotten: I call it the X-Factor. As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts”. As a result of this obsessive focus on numbers, we tend to measure everything, even if it isn’t really an indicator of anything worthwhile. But at the same time, there are some aspects of business we don’t and can’t measure, but which deliver a huge degree of intrinsic value.
We have learned intangible and mercurial aspects of business, we call the X-factor, can deliver huge benefits. I am advocating an approach that encourages people’s passion and it’s really working for us. There are three aspects to creating a winning X-Factor culture:
The first is around values. When we articulated what our culture had become we didn’t realise it would be so important. We have found it to be very powerful as it has become ever-present in everything we do. It started when we expanded across the country and wanted to make sure who we were wasn’t being diluted or distorted across our national and regional offices. We spent time thinking about what lexicon best reflected the organisation we thought we were, what we wanted to be and how we wanted to be perceived.
The second aspect is your environment. When we moved into new offices – a refurbished warehouse space in Sydney’s CBD – architectural design firm Rolf Ockert created a space that reflected our values. We tried not to provide too tight a brief, except to say the overall effect should be “funky” and consistent with our values. The result has been an environment people feel inspired by, which has won awards and is an instant talking point.
Finally, there is attitude. We identified in the creation of our X-Factor that our team was overwhelmingly committed to caring about the customer. Not in a way that could be measured by customer satisfaction surveys; and not even in a way that could be tracked in customer retention dashboards or other metrics.
You can retain your customers by simply staying ahead of your competition – in price or in customer service. But we discovered our people wanted to commit to something above and beyond that. We defined this in terms of seeking to always delight our customers. Our customers appreciate it, and it is borne out in our revenue figures and overall success.
But more important than all of this the pride my colleagues have in the workplace, its professionalism and passion.
I was surprised how much the X-Factor has impacted our business. Nowhere in my MBA studies was this kind of “fluffy stuff” recognised as powerful and differentiating. We weren’t taught how to create it or cultivate it as leaders and managers but I now know that our company wouldn’t be what it is without it. It seems today we lean so heavily on the left side of our brain, we forget how much the right side can contribute.”