Forming Effective Organizations Takes PEOPLEWORK, not Paperwork

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BCAT Standard Model of Brand and Culture
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Brand and Culture are two faces of the same mountain.

Creating a company? You know the drill: you retain an attorney, you call an accountant, you hire a logo designer… done, done, and done. Hundreds of thousands of visionary Founders and Partners perform this ritual every month, but barely half survive five years and only a third make it to their tenth anniversary (from various sources; here’s a good place to start).

Very, very few ever achieve that enviable hallmark of genuine incorporation, the creation of a compelling and enduring Brand aligned with an inspiring and motivating Culture.

Without an aligned Brand and Culture, and no matter how much you may pay them, your people think and behave as individuals, each prioritizing their own personal needs and ambitions, far less likely to help your organization become competitive than to compete with each other for their position within it.

People don’t follow people. They follow what people follow.

On the other hand, when people rally around keeping your Brand’s promises and share in the values and aspirations of your Culture, they become an Incorporated Person. They communicate more openly, collaborate more willingly, and innovate more courageously. They act as a unit, supporting your mission rather than fighting with each other – and all this without lawyers, accountants, or even a logo.

When we align the way we do our work (our Brand) with our passion for the work we do (our Culture) we become more than just good at our jobs. We become excellent.

Time for a new incorporation ritual.

An earlier post describes a five-step incorporation method that you can perform with your people to align them with your Brand and Culture. It’s based on what we call the Incorporating Question.

“If our whole organization – its founders, leaders, workers, everyone in it, all of its methods, all of its tools, all of it – were a single ‘virtual person’ doing its best work on its best day, keeping all of its promises and delivering its best results, what would that ideal person be like?”

Everyone (leaders, managers, employees, stakeholders, everyone) in the organization participates in this simple but powerful exercise by offering what they see as the attributes that represent their team’s Best Self, living its Best Day at work. As their inventory of ideal attributes grows, a profile emerges of their shared Role Model.

We’ve performed this exercise dozens of times, in various forms, for thousands of participants at every level within for- and non-profit businesses, public and private schools, and volunteer organizations. Our analysis of the hundreds of attributes we’ve gathered shows that they describe four basic organizational Role Models.

The Expert values accuracy, thinks linearly and objectively, and seeks deep knowledge in a particular, relatively narrow field of study. They’re known for taking measurements, gathering facts, offering long, detailed explanations, and for earning (if not necessarily displaying) academic credentials and professional certifications.

The Driver has a bias for action. Drivers value arguing to a conclusion, defining milestones and setting deadlines, and checking things off their “to-do” lists… which, along with their bullet-pointed communication style, skill at steering a conversation into an actionable plan, and careful attention to schedules makes them easy to recognize.

The Creator likes to keep their options open and is always discovering new things to do and new ways to do them. Creators value the element of surprise, multi-tasking, and making a strong impression on others. They’re known for their flashy graphical presentations, engaging communication style, use of humor to get peoples’ attention, and their occasional antics.

The Caretaker is a traditional rule-follower and a steady, diligent worker. The Culture of the Caretaker respects others’ needs and concerns, likes to maintain positive professional relationships, and values fairness and consistency. Caretakers express their Brand in their friendly communication style, by doing things methodically and competently both individually and in teams, by carefully following accepted procedures and proven checklists, and by patiently seeking broad consensus rather than rapid closure in meetings.

Basic Organizational Role Models
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Role Target: A specific combination of four Role Models.

Every organization possesses attributes of all four Role Models, but in different amounts. Our method for surveying an organization’s ideal pattern of behavior (the attributes we collect when we ask a company, department, or team the Incorporating Question) and our system for associating and counting the answers (the attributes in our list that correspond to our four elemental Role Models) makes measuring an organization’s signature Brand and Culture straightforward:

  1. Gather all the attributes the members of your team can think of in answering the Incorporating Question.
  2. For each of our four elemental Role Models, count the number of corresponding attributes.
  3. Rank the four Role Models in descending order by the number of attributes corresponding to each.
  4. The result: your team’s Role Target: the ideal pattern of positive behaviors, values, and attitudes that best expresses its Brand and Culture. All four ranked elements are important, but particularly the top two:

Positive Cultures make powerful brands.

Measuring and mapping your organization’s Role Target helps you in three ways:

  1. Your mapped Role Target provides a focus of self-improvement for your organization’s members. Leaders and individual contributors, senior and junior members, everyone can become better by modeling themselves after his or her organization’s Role Target.
  2. Your Role Target offers guidelines for verbal and graphical expression in presentations, marketing materials, and social media posts that reinforce rather than undermine your organization’s Brand and Culture. We’ll explore this more fully in future posts.
  3. By graphically revealing the gaps among the Role Targets returned by separately surveying your team’s leaders, individual contributors, board members, and customers, the BCAT Standard Model of Brand and Culture provides you with a way to determine whether your Brand and Culture are aligned and serves as the starting point for improving that alignment.

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