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Developing the Company Culture

     The benefits of a strong corporate culture are both intuitive and supported by social science.  The Company Culture accounts for 20-30% of the differential in corporate performance when compared with those companies that are culturally unremarkable.  

     The ABT Team knows and understands that each culture is unique and myriad factors go into creating one, but it has been observed that there are at least six common components of great cultures. Isolating those elements are the first step that the ABT Team does to build a great culture which in turn results in a lasting organization.

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1. Vision:

     A great culture starts with a vision or mission statement. This simple phrase will guide a company’s values and provide a purpose. That purpose, in turn, orients every decision that both management and employees will make. 

     When the vision and mission are deeply authentic and prominently displayed, it can even help orient customers, suppliers, investors, and other stakeholders. An interesting side note is that Nonprofits often excel at having a compelling and simple vision statement. The Alzheimer’s Association, for example, is dedicated to “a world without Alzheimer’s.” And Oxfam envisions “a just world without  poverty.” A vision statement is a simple but foundational element of culture.

2. Values: 

     Milford Adams works with the company to help establish the company’s values as these are the core of the company’s culture. While a vision articulates a company’s purpose, values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviors and mindsets needed to achieve that vision. McKinsey & Company, for example, has a clearly articulated set of values that are prominently communicated to all employees and involve the way the firm vows to: serve clients, treat colleagues,

and uphold professional standards.

     Google’s values might be best articulated by their famous phrase, “Don’t be evil.” But they are also enshrined in their “ten things we know to be true.” And while many companies find their values revolve around a few simple topics (employees, clients, professionalism, etc.). Milford Adams understands that the

originality of those values is less important than their authenticity.

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3. Practices: 

    Milford Adams knows that the values are of little importance unless they are enshrined in a company’s practices. If an organization professes, “people are our greatest asset,” it should also be ready to invest in people in visible ways. Wegman’s, for example, heralds’ values like “caring” and “respect,” promising prospects “a job [they’ll]  love.” And it follows through in its company practices, ranked by Fortune as the fifth best company to work for. Similarly, if an organization values a “flat” hierarchy, it must encourage more junior team members to dissent in discussions without fear or negative repercussions.  Whatever an organization’s values, they must be reinforced in review criteria and promotion policies and baked into the operating principles of daily life in the firm.

4. People: 

     Without a doubt, Milford Adams understands that no company can build a coherent culture without people who either share its core values or possess the willingness and ability to embrace those values. That is why the greatest firms in the world also have some of the most stringent recruiting policies.

     The best firms are fanatical about recruiting new employees who are not just the most talented but also the best suited to a particular corporate culture.  People stick with cultures they like and bringing on the right “culture carriers” reinforces the culture an organization already has.

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5. Narrative: 

     Any organization has a unique history and a unique story. The ability to unearth that history and craft it into a narrative is a core element of culture creation that Milford Adams will help the  organization to accomplish. The elements of that narrative can be formal such as Coca-Cola, which dedicated an enormous resource to celebrating its heritage and even has a World of Coke museum in Atlanta.  It can also be informal, like those stories about how Steve Jobs’ early fascination with calligraphy which shaped the aesthetically oriented culture at Apple. But they are more powerful when identified, shaped, and retold as a part of a firm’s ongoing culture and Milford Adams is here to help.

6. Place: 

     Why does Pixar have a huge open atrium engineering an environment where firm members run into each other throughout the day and interact in informal, unplanned ways? Why does Mayor Michael Bloomberg prefer his staff sit in a "bullpen" environment, rather than one of separate offices with soundproof doors? And why do tech firms cluster in Silicon Valley and financial firms cluster in London and New York?

     There are numerous answers to each of these questions, but one clear answer is the place will help shape the culture. Open architecture is more conducive to certain office behaviors, like collaboration. Certain cities and countries have local cultures that may reinforce or contradict the culture a firm is trying to create. The organization’s place, whether geography, architecture, or aesthetic design, can and will impact the values and behaviors of people in the workplace.

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Many other Influences

     Milford Adams knows and understands the other factors that influence culture. However, the core components can provide a firm foundation for shaping a new organization’s culture. He understands that by identifying, understanding, and recognizing the cultural foundations fully, in an existing organization, is the first step to revitalizing and/or reshaping culture in a company looking for a change.

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