Écrit par l'équipe P-Val

CEOs are often more lucid about the importance of their company’s culture – afterwards – rather than during the period when they are effectively at the head of the compagny.

One example among many is Frédéric Oudéa’s testimony in an interview conducted by McKinsey. “The whole organisation must be able to find and implement solutions. This doesn’t just happen through methodical planning. It comes from building the culture, which is about how people work with each other. Colleagues need to feel comfortable thinking outside the box and solving problems at any time. Protecting this culture is the most important aspect of leadership, especially in a crisis. The solutions may not be immediately clear when a crisis arises, but the culture will guide you, and the capabilities of your team will enable you to act.

This discrepancy is understandable, but should not be forgiven.

This is understandable, as managers are caught up in a whirlwind of decisions and crises that demand responses at short notice.

It must not be forgiven, because that is precisely what makes a CEO much better than an operational manager, a COO to put it mildly.

It is the CEO’s role to manage the long term and to ensure that the organisation’s World – its way of thinking and acting – corresponds to the challenges posed by the external environment and to the strategy defined to meet these challenges.

In 2000, Frédéric Oudéa would probably not even have mentioned the notion of culture. In 2023, once he’s gone, he’ll be highlighting the importance of culture with great relevance … as for his impact on the subject during his term of office, you’d need to know the opinion of the forty-something managers who will shape SG’s future to form an opinion.

Today’s top managers know that culture is key, but they don’t know how to develop it effectively, because they lack the ‘tools’ at their level, apart from traditional delegation to HR, which is useful but far from sufficient.

I attended a conference given by a brilliant CEO. She basically said “culture is essential to the performance of my company“, only to admit a few moments later “I don’t know how to deal with it“.

They are also reluctant to invest with the right level of commitment on the subject: “How much do you invest in changing your company’s culture? What percentage does this represent in relation to your IT transformation budget, for example?”

The CEO sometimes fantasises about a desired culture – his will, his desire to bend reality – without doing the work of listening in depth to the cultures actually at work in his company. The discourse quickly becomes incantatory: “the team spirit is there” says the CEO “Really?” reply the N-2s with a smirk.

The subject of culture is changing for the better. Here are two examples from large organisations whose CEOs have grasped the cultural challenge:

More than two years on, the merger between Worldline and Ingénico can be considered a success. This success was not at all obvious at the outset. The issue was tackled from a cultural perspective from the outset, with the aim of bringing the two companies together to create a new common culture without getting bogged down in organisational trenches. This was the ‘One Culture’ project led by Gilles Grapinet, which quickly evolved from a merger issue into a challenge of transforming the whole group to cope with new entrants like Adyen.

La Poste group’s strategic plan is highly ambitious in a volatile and complex economic climate. CEO Philippe Wahl has identified the culture of cooperation as the key lever for achieving this. Cooperation is necessary, for example, to take advantage of several competing parcel brands in France. With his Executive Committee, he is heavily involved in this World of Cooperation, which starts at the top but spreads in depth to become a lasting culture, necessary, for example, for the Network entity to be able to distribute throughout France the offers of the Bank, Insurance, Geopost, new services, etc. If there is no cooperation, then why “form a group”?

The famous American sociologist Edgar Schein (1928-2023) put it succinctly. “The only really important thing that leaders do is create and manage culture. If you don’t manage the culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent of this phenomenon“.

Succeeding in this challenge – creating and managing your company’s culture – is P-VAL’s raison d’être – to create your Better World.  Our approach is inspired, tool-based, visual, based on pragmatic steps and validated by numerous examples: it is in tune with the World of CEOs 😊