Creating A Culture Of Value In Your Practice

Getting staff to sing together is important; so is practicing what you preach.

"An organization that truly believes in maximizing intellect can't have multiple cultures."

-Jack Welch, Jack: Straight from the Gut

It's a new world for business. Remember the old days when quality was an afterthought? Consumers finally gave American companies a financial slap aside the head and shouted, "HELLO? We want excellent products at a fair price. Provide them or we'll go elsewhere for satisfaction." So they flocked to less expensive, better made imports.

Quality became king.

During the quality craze of the '80s every business publication, business leader and sales professional cried out for the need to focus on internal quality. Quality initiatives, quality teams, quality circles, total quality management and quality processes sprang up everywhere. Winning organizations made the demand for quality integral to every person, process and product they pushed through their doors. Quality became so important that Congress even authorized the creation of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

The reason quality interventions are so successful in some companies-the type that have won the awards, for example-is because the leaders at the top embrace quality and it trickles down. Firms, large and small, need a focus and commitment to put it all into place and have everyone working in sync. Even if you have a small two- or three-person practice, quality counts and having a distinct culture within your team allows your firm and its members to grow with a singular purpose.

Culture begins with an attitude and requires a mighty effort. Arguably Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, is as qualified as anyone to teach this subject. As implied in the quote above from his autobiography, you and your team/staff must be singing from the same hymnal to effect change and to achieve the goals important to your practice.

Culture not only is articulated from the top, but also practiced at the top. By now, you already have climbed the entire Value Ladder and everybody-I mean everybody-who is involved with your clients should have completed theirs as well. Anyone part of the chain should be able to demonstrate his or her confidence, passion and speed. And everyone should now understand the value he or she provides.

If you are an individual practitioner working for a larger firm and are attempting to focus heavily on the uniqueness of your or your team's story, this may present a different challenge to you. It's understandable that reinforcing a culture to a group of entrepreneurs within a large firm environment is difficult. But, many times it can be accomplished. If not, and you are not able to move forward with your plans to create your own culture, it may be time to find another environment for yourself and your team.

Creating a culture of value includes seven steps, neatly explained in the acronym CULTURE.

Challenge yourself and your organization to greatness

Understand your value gaps and act

Listen aggressively to your clients