Creating a brand-centric organization is never a perfectly smooth process. No matter how committed the senior leaders, well-thought-out the strategy or high the degree of organizational buy-in, breakdowns will happen. However, after shepherding nearly 100 of these change-management projects in everything from small businesses to Inc. 500 firms to Fortune 1000 companies, I firmly believe a commitment-based approach to change management leads to greater results faster and with the fewest problems in implementation.
The opposite of the vicious cycle of change management, this process includes all the areas needed for functional alignment that require real change and rolls them out in a chronological order that builds momentum and commitment. The approach is characterized by:
- A clear understanding of what real cultural change takes
- Ownership of the cultural change process at the very top of the organization
- Participation and buy-in from all parts of the company
- Commitment to real change -- not just the appearance of change
- Total alignment and participation from senior management in the change
- Assignment of sufficient resources (time, money, staff) to make the change happen
- A clear, agreed-upon structure to keep the change on track and on purpose
- Strategic use of external expertise to assist with the change process
The actual process itself is fairly simple to follow and involves five phases.
Phase 1: engage the C-suite
Let’s face it: Bottom-up cultural change is as rare as a pink unicorn with purple spots. The reality is that unless people believe their leaders are genuinely committed to becoming brand-centric, no process will go very far. I’ve seen entire organizational transformation projects brought down by bad behavior on the part of the leadership. Walking the talk is essential to creating a brand-centric organization. Just a few of the actions involved in this first phase of the process include:
- Creating a senior team to oversee the brand-centric cultural change process
- Including a brand-centric focus as an expression of customer commitment in the organizational vision
- Setting long-term and short-term goals for being brand-centric
- Creating and communicating a company-wide message about being brand-centric
Phase 2: build awareness
In order to gain commitment to the brand-centric process, buy-in must occur within the various levels and constituencies of the organization. Once management commitment is secured, the next step is to assess the gap between the current level of brand-centricity and the desired state. This includes gathering feedback from front-line staff, customers and management.
Phase 3: educate and train
The staff who interacts daily with your customers are one of your company’s greatest brand assets. Having your employees act as brand ambassadors requires educating, training, encouraging and supporting them. This training can run the gamut and include everything from managing online communities to dealing with dissatisfied clients and speaking at public events.
Long-term changes cannot be made in the brand-centric culture of your company without the commitment and support of management, so it’s critical to train them in their role as well, including:
- Evaluating their staff’s brand-centric attitude and abilities
- Coaching staff in the principles and skills of being brand-centric
- Supporting, encouraging and rewarding staff for being brand-centric
Phase 4: practice continuous improvement
It’s impossible to create a brand-centric culture without taking on the processes, procedures, systems and standards at the heart of the way a company does business -- both internally and externally.
Continuous brand improvement groups are one of the most efficient and effective ways to deal with this overwhelming tangle of systematic issues. In addition, because they involve staff at all levels and in all areas of the organization, they provide a great opportunity for employee engagement in the process. Later in this chapter you can see a more detailed lay of the land on how you might implement them.
Phase 5: create reward and recognition
There are many aspects of an organization’s infrastructure that must be addressed to become brand-centric; however, as the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.” In the final analysis, what leadership says will only carry as much weight as what it rewards. Financial incentives are only one form of recognizing brand-centric behavior. Creating an environment of recognition is equally powerful. Private and public praise, promotions, acknowledgment, awards and so on are all part of creating the underlying infrastructure of a brand-centric company culture.