ONE THING I WISH I’D DONE

Why a culture assessment is essential–no matter how your business is doing.

by Trevor Lee

One of the hardest things I’ve done in my professional life is lead an organization through closing. There were a variety of factors that contributed to the decision–scarce resources, leadership burnout, internal dynamics, and more. Looking back, I know we made the right decision, but one of the hardest things to come to terms with is that it might not have had to be that way. Of course, I’ll never know for sure, but I do know it wasn’t until we moved toward closing that the full picture of both the healthy aspects and unhealthy aspects of our organization became more clear. By that time it was far too late to try and do anything about them.

Looking back, I know we made the right decision, but one of the hardest things to come to terms with is that it might not have had to be that way.

Whatever the outcome for the organization, I know for sure we would have profoundly benefitted from a third-party culture assessment years before we closed. Here are three reasons why a culture assessment is so important.

You can’t fully assess your culture when you’re in the middle of it.

Great leaders have a good sense of the culture of their organization. They can name the things that are going well and the problem areas that need to be addressed. But even the best leaders can’t possibly see the full picture. It’s the old adage of a fish not being aware of the water. 

When I started with the organization I referenced at the beginning, I saw all kinds of things! I was new to the organization so I saw the people and processes with fresh eyes. Over time, all those things that were new became my reality and I lost the ability to see them as clearly. In addition, I was not in the middle of shaping the organization. There was no way for me to be fully objective. 

I don’t care how great a leader you are, you cannot see your organization clearly on your own.

Good culture assessments remove the fog.

Have you ever been driving and your windshield starts fogging up? You can still see the road, kind of, but your heart starts to beat a little faster because you know you’re not seeing things clearly. That’s often the way a leader sees their organization–or at least parts of it.

You know that certain employees aren’t fulfilling their potential, but is it because they don’t have clarity on expectations, they aren’t being managed well, they have trouble in their home life, or something else? You know the sales team isn’t performing well, but is it because they don’t have the right demeanor for it, your SEO process is dated, orders haven’t been fulfilled in a timely manner, or something else? You get the point. 

A good culture assessment removes the fog and gives you clarity on things that matter.

An objective voice helps you pull the trigger on things you already know.

My guess is if I asked you the top three things that needed to happen for your company to be more successful right now, you’d be able to name them–and you’d probably be right. But the most important things are often difficult, and it’s hard to pull the trigger on things that will disrupt the current reality because you know it will ruffle some feathers.

But the most important things are often difficult, and it’s hard to pull the trigger on things that will disrupt the current reality because you know it will ruffle some feathers.

Having an objective party come in to give you a fresh perspective on your culture will either challenge or affirm the things you think need to happen. If they’re challenged it might save you from making a big mistake. If they’re affirmed it will give you greater confidence to move forward with difficult decisions for the good of the company.

Of course part of the reason I’m writing this is that Core Ventures offers a great culture assessment, and I hope you’d consider using it. But I can also honestly say that I urge you to get a good culture assessment done even if you went with someone else. I certainly wish I had.