Aligning Cultures

Derek Bishop


Supplying the culture

Date added: 10th Dec 2014
Category: Aligning Cultures

Every organisation sits at the centre of a web of interconnectivity which encompasses those in the supply chain, those delivering national infrastructure services and connected third parties such as legal, accountancy or marketing support. So how do you immerse these diverse organisations in the culture of your organisation?

“Put not your trust in princes” so the saying goes but in this modern era perhaps we would do better to update it to ‘put not your trust in third parties’  – not at least until you have made extra sure that those third parties are fully immersed in the culture of your organisation.

One of the blessings of our interconnected world is that businesses no longer operate in isolation; by drawing in expertise and assistance from across the globe even the smallest of organisations can have a large reach.  But this brings its own challenges and one of the curses of our interconnected world is that businesses increasingly rely on third parties to deliver their programme.

Two such examples came to our notice recently.  In the first, someone who had deliberately chosen a phone and broadband organisation for its customer service reputation found themselves helpless in the face of BT’s incompetence as they were cut off in error with mistake after mistake delaying resolution.  Although they had chosen their supplier based on reputation, in the end their supplier had to rely on BT for resolution and a sequence of delays led to a resultant loss of faith in the supplier themselves.

In the other instance an order from a reputable high street company was placed in the hands of a courier which has an increasingly poor reputation for care on delivery.  The customer stayed in all day and the courier never showed up, instead placing a note on line to the effect that delivery had been attempted but that access to the property was blocked.  With open gates and an expectant customer it was clear that the courier didn’t even try to deliver and the customer was left with a round trip drive of some 70 miles to retrieve the urgently required package.  Again the high street store may have had a good reputation but the association with the courier has left the customer wondering whether to shop there again.

Businesses cannot operate in isolation

Being realistic, businesses cannot operate in isolation.  Every organisation sits at the centre of a web of interconnectivity which encompasses those in the supply chain, those delivering national infrastructure services and connected third parties such as legal, accountancy or marketing support.  And being realistic again, there is little chance of expecting infrastructure organisations to absorb your own organisational culture.  But that doesn’t mean that businesses should simply shrug their shoulders and write off poor support and it doesn’t mean that businesses should ignore the importance of drawing as many third parties as possible into their organisational culture model.

So what is the solution for businesses which want to promote their own strong culture and avoid, as far as possible, being compromised by third parties?  The answer lies deep within the organisational culture.  Businesses which set aims, values, beliefs and behaviours which only relate to processes carried out by immediate employees are, quite frankly, only doing half a job.  And whilst every business is different our top tips would include:

  • If you have a choice, choose wisely. In other words, if you want a reputation for customer service then choose third parties which also have the same reputation.
  • Carry out cultural due diligence before you sign. Cultural due diligence is not just for M&As but should be part of every outsource contract.
  • Make your expectations clear. If you can include a non-performance break clause in the contract then do so.  If the organisation is small enough then take time at the outset to share your cultural values and expectations.
  • Build bridges. Encourage regular links between your business and the third party.  The better the relationship the swifter the resolution should something go awry.
  • Step up a gear. When you have no control over external events then go the extra mile to keep customers informed and to seek alternative solutions for them.

Your business is your brand and when you work so hard to build the brand it is galling to find that third parties can damage it.  But by choosing wisely, keeping customers informed and seeking to provide instant redress you can actually strengthen your own reputation even when third parties let you down.

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