Building An Organization With A Strong Company Culture: The How-To

No matter how good the strategy is, building a strong culture goes to the core of execution. But how does one actually do that?

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It has been often said that said "culture eats strategy for breakfast," and in business, there is no stronger truism than that statement for me.

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No matter how good the strategy is, building a strong culture goes to the core of execution. But how does one actually do that? Here are five practical ways to build a winning company culture:

1. Ensure alignment of thought across the organization The first step is alignment of thought across the organization. In my company, this was true for us when we were two people, and it still holds true today with over 2,000 people in the business.

I heard this fable early in my career: a person who was walking along a road came across three masons building a monument. This person asked the first mason: "What are you doing, and why?" The first mason responds, "I am laying bricks, so that I can feed my family." On the other hand, the second mason replies, "I am building a wall, since I am good at it, and I enjoy waking up every day to do this kind of work." Finally, the third mason replies, "I am building the world's largest cathedral, and I'm excited I can contribute to it."

I just love this story. Hidden in its simplicity is a very powerful message of attitude, purpose, and the ability to see the big picture. As an organization, it is crucial to visit your what and why. And then we have to make sure everyone in the organization is on the same page. A lack of alignment leads to different paths- a growing organization needs everyone on the same path.

2. Put together a team that's fueled by passion A strong culture does not happen without a passionate team. Consider the case of Pradeep, who is an office boy in our organization. He is extremely good at timing my movements, and ensuring that he has my requirements done whenever I need them, even before I can ask him.

Out of curiosity, I once asked him how does he know what I need, and how he gets it done so well too, and his response was that he observes me and learns. He added, "It's the least he can do, given the scale of my work." Pradeep's passion is infectious, and it certainly makes my day better. We all need more Pradeeps in our organizations.

Related: How Company Culture Can Positively Impact Business Goals

3. Focus on integrity and commitment This is paramount for any organization to flourish, both professional and personal, and this means walking the talk.

I once called a senior leader in my organization to discuss a shipment issue on one of his projects. He answered my call, and he attended to everything diligently. Later, on a follow-up call, I heard a persistent beeping in the background, and I asked him what that was. That's when he shared that he was in the hospital, under observation for a possible heart issue.

I was extremely sad to learn of the poor state of his health, and I asked him to stop his work to rest and take care of himself. But his commitment to doing a good job was so strong that he didn't even tell me that he was in the hospital. While I don't support him working while he was unwell, I was super grateful about his commitment to completing his work. People's integrity in their work spreads a strong message to their colleagues. People enjoy their work more when everyone walks the talk.

4. Sustainability in thought and action is a must Our people and the organization they belong to must have a commitment to sustainability in thought and action. That means everything we undertake should be followed through and sustained over time.

For instance, when one of my team members was leaving the company, he organized an exceptional handover of his work portfolio, because he wanted to make sure that everything he had invested in was sustained. He wanted it to become a standard operating procedure at our company. It meant that his contribution would ensure sustenance of the well-set processes, and also enable the evolution of the organization.

5. Perform with purpose A strong culture operates on performance with purpose. Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, says in her book My Life in Full quotes this as being her opus while in that role. While she ensured to deliver excellent performance for her business, she would add three imperatives to her work: to nourish humanity, to replenish the environment, and to cherish the people in the organization.

For me, our purpose is to deliver creative fashion solutions sustainably and ethically. While clothing the world, I want to ensure we do it sustainably without harming the environment, and also ethically by improving the lives of people who work with us. It does not mean we sacrifice performance- rather, it's about balancing it with purpose.

Culture is often misunderstood because it focuses on intangibles. But without the inclusive growth of everyone as well as the freedom to fearlessly express one's opinion in the organization, no growth or success will be sustainable. A well-aligned organization motivates people to work passionately, and thus establish an amazing culture in the organization.

Related: Amazon's Paul Misener On Fostering A Winning Company Culture (And How His Trillion-Dollar Enterprise Continues To Learn From Startups)