10 Considerations for Successful Culture Shifts-Contact Centers #1

By : Rudy Vidal | | Category : Contact Center Management Corporate Culture culture management xcs

teampicIn this series  we will cover 10 considerations for creating successful cultures shifts in support contact centers.  Although not a complete or exhaustive list, it calls attention to areas often overlooked or of critical importance.  These considerations can apply to other types of organizations and contact centers.

These postings will shortly be compiled into a whitepaper available on our website.  If you’d like to receive a FREE copy, please click here and we’ll email you a copy once compiled, or click here to be notified of updates.

Contact Centers form very specific kinds of cultures, which can present challenges not usually seen elsewhere in the organization.  The proactive management of cultures is often avoided because it is seen as a difficult and even dangerous long-term endeavor.  This does not have to be the case, in fact, the proactive management of cultures increases the likelihood of success and is rewarding to all those involved.

Bob Greenberg, CMO of Panasonic, a dear friend and mentor, once said to me: “left alone, disarray and lack of grace always prevails.  If we want to maintain grace and beauty in our systems, we must be involved”.  An example is: A house left alone will deteriorate faster than one that is lived-in and cared for.  For the same reason, we need to nurture cultures over time.  Left alone, the forces of everyday business as well as changes in management and staff can move cultures away from the desired focus.

Through experience, we can list a few guidelines:

–        Cultures require management ownership
–        Cultures are not the employees.
–        Cultures are usually the effect, not the cause.
–        Cultures cannot be changed; they are either shifted or damaged.
–        Culture shifts cannot be mandated.  Mandate = Damage
–        Cultures must be seen as a labor of love.

We feel strongly about these factoids forming a foundation for success.  If you disagree, we’d love your comments.

1. Definition

Although there is room for interpretation, an over-simplified definition of a corporate culture is offered as:

“The  generally accepted norms and values of an organization that result in a behavioral or operational paradigm”

In short, an organization adopts certain norms and values that result in certain consistencies in the way it thinks, feels and acts.

Considering the definition we are tempted to equate “culture” to “workforce”.  But that is an incomplete view.  The culture is not simply the sum of the workforce, but is instead, the result of what can be considered a “chemical” reaction between People, Purpose and Environment.


This interaction results in the set of values and norms that allow us to predict organizational behavior under certain conditions.  To the extent that these norms and values magnify or support the core purpose of the organization, we can say we have a satisfactorily aligned culture.

Let’s cover the components briefly:

As mentioned, the people component is not limited to employees but include all those in the interaction: management, customers, vendors as well as employees.  Some organizational behaviorists may include special external influencers such as labor unions or immediate family.

The importance of managing the people component is obvious, but the reason often eludes us.  We must manage the people component because it is “the people” that set the stage for the purpose, the environment and the chemical reaction and it is in “the people” that the chemical reaction takes place.

People are the most important asset of the culture, nothing happens without people.

In today’s experience economy (The Experience Economy“, Pine and Gilmore), products and services are no longer considered long-term brand differentiators.  The market differentiators have now become “experiences”.  Experiences are a broader output and are driven by the organization’s intention or purpose.

The purpose of the contact center goes beyond the pragmatic “job” to be done, it reaches for the “WHY” or essence for which the contact center stands. (see “Start with Why”, Sinek)

By aligning our departments, employees, policies, processes, etc., to this “WHY”, we can create consistent and repeatable experiences for our customers across the organization.  A clearly defined purpose simplifies decisions, facilitates empowerment, promotes employee engagement and creates focus.

The purpose defines the required culture.

The environment is the sum of all other variables creating the conditions for the “chemical” reaction.  It is comprised of processes, policies, systems, tools, expectations, metrics, etc.  The variables we normally manipulate to improve our performance are most often part of the environment.

In Short
The Purpose defines the Culture, while the People and Environment make it possible.
By managing People, Purpose and Environment we can shift cultures.

Next Posting:
2. Management Ownership
3. Ensuring a Need for a Culture ShiftRudy Vidal

Committed to XCL

Copyright 2009 Vidal Consulting Group LLC