Culture assessment is tough, but it is worth the effort at the boardroom because innovative and adaptive cultures tend to catalyze higher business performance.

Culture is the competitive advantage of the business, and the cultural aspect is an intrinsic factor that drives the organization's business longevity. An organization with excellent culture is arguably capable of providing great results in their competencies. 

Besides strategic oversight, the contemporary corporate boards play important roles in assessing culture impact through the following aspects, and setting culture tuning to accelerate business performance.

Statement of vision, values - this is to be articulated and communicated across the organization:
Corporate board helps to develop and review the statement of vision and values of the organization. Vision Statement is a very brief summary to provide business guidance about what core to preserve and what future to stimulate progress toward. Your vision statement should be communicated across the organization; and it's worth pushing to a level of specificity, which makes the desired outcome unarguably clear and provides a means of tracking business progress. Similarly; value statement is a brief summary to provide guidance about a set of business values such as economical value, employee value, customer value, etc; it’s your tangible and bold statement that the employee is valued and trusted, customers and partners are appreciated. The leader from the boardroom down to the hierarchy needs to be willing to put his/her vision out there, and be open and receptive to input, continue to update and renew business dialogues.

None of us are stagnant, we are continually discovering who we are and "who" we want our company to be, this is especially true in the dynamic business new normal. In fact, vision/value state review is the part of strategic oversight of the boardroom. Business leaders should make their state of value widely known by their people, so they can do their best to achieve the value set. This allows the team to openly debate their ideas and thoughts, aligning their own personal visions with the vision of the company, and integrate their personal value into the corporate value. When the vision, purpose and values are clear, people, process, and technologies are aligned and employees know that they have the power to make decisions that are in the best interest of the organization, share their ideas in an atmosphere free of fear, you will find an organization that has the ability to be successful.

Feedback - holding management responsible for improving concerned areas from the value of stakeholders’ feedback: Business stagnation is usually caused by static or silo mindsets, change inertia and process ineffectiveness, etc. The value of feedback is to effectively connect our past learning to our future operation. Corporate board monitors business performance periodically. Feedback is actually an integral piece of performance management. Constructive feedback from various stakeholders provide important clues for the business to improve. Feedback needs to be relevant, continuous, as close to real time as possible, in control of the recipient and in a way the recipient can understand so the management is responsible for improving concerned areas.

Peers, subordinates, co-workers, clients, and vendors all have their various observations. Their respective viewpoints can indicate useful areas for further exploration and confirmation. Although boards cannot read all those feedbacks in detail, their attention can help the management identify and bridge feedback gaps as sometimes, the "interpretation" and "language" barriers affect perception and comprehension in such a way that overreaction will occur. With effective feedback, the management is able to make continuous improvement on fixing real problems shareholders are truly concerned about. And the corporate board set the right culture tones for making the working environment diverse, dynamic, energetic, and innovative.

Process Transparency - what information is communicated and how frequently? What distinguishes one company from another is about people, products, and processes. A "business process" evokes the notion of inputs, managed known from flowing. Business process has many characteristics such as workflow, people, information, supplies, tools, steering, etc, to make it happen. The transparency is to transform the organization into the system approach, not through the command-control hierarchy only. You could supervise and control every move. It has to be implemented systematically and communicate democratically. Transparency is gaining in popularity as a component of culture, but in uncertain times, the concept is complicated by managing paradoxes.t is really important for teams as every member is always aware of how the whole process is going on, what results have already been achieved. The transparency is to transform quality management into the system approach, not through command-control hierarchy only. You could supervise and control every move. It has to be implemented systematically and communicated democratically.

Degree of Empowerment - how much delegation is permitted. What is the decision-making freedom at various levels of hierarchy? In all conversations about culture, we need to remember that it is the policies, procedures, rewards and retributions that drive behavior and it is the employee behavior that expresses "culture." Corporate boards make a set of good policies to cultivate a desired culture; a good culture lifts an even average culture, and accelerates a good strategy. A set of positive cultures empowers people to achieve more, and drive progressive changes. Empowerment is about transforming someone by increasing their capacity or abilities in order to help them make better choices that lead to desired outcomes.

Empowerment can multiply performance by quantum levels. Insightful boards delegate the variety of responsibilities to the management. What is required for management quality check is to clarify the purpose and engage all the people involved working together as a team to excel in the delivery of quality products or services with accelerated speed. In practice, decision effectiveness relies on an agreed common approach, not a predetermined set of "one size fits all" planning. Corporate boards should practice governance disciplines to ensure decision-making consistency and culture of engagement & cohesiveness across the organizational hierarchy.

Strategy effectiveness & success rate- Participation in strategy and innovation by employees -Corporate boards oversee strategy, statistically, more than two thirds of strategy management fail to achieve expected results. Actually, in many companies, innovation is serendipity, and less than ten percent of employees know what their strategy is. Many organizations have 'strategy' just in order to be 'cool' and 'complete. One of the issues with strategy implementation is that there is commonly no agreement at the top as to what is meant by strategy. In fact, most employees, including top managers, don't believe that something like strategy really exists and matters.

Strategy is the shareware, not shelfwared. The strategy comes from the top and is only communicated down methodology is doomed to underperform the market, as it will always lag the market. The corporate boards oversee, and if necessary, co-develop a good strategy with the management. But the best people to promote strategy aren't the board - they are the people in customer service, delivery, and sales. Thus, high performance companies actively encourage everybody to comment, give inputs into critical areas in a secure fashion so that people can connect their daily work with the “bigger picture” of the company. Leadership as a system is wrapped in a culture of openness and emergence. By setting the right culture tone from the boardroom and continuous management practices, diverse workforce today shifts from strategy-illiterate to strategy cognizant, becoming strategic savvy and innovation enthusiastic.

Culture is the pathway to change and business transformation. Either at the organizational or societal scope, culture is complex and often invisible; it is important to do research and validate a culture assessment instrument that measures culture from different perspectives; such as cultural constructs or dimensions of culture and cultural styles. Culture assessment is tough, but it is worth the effort at the boardroom because innovative and adaptive cultures tend to catalyze higher business performance compared to those with weak or nonadaptive cultures. It ultimate impacts business success in tangible or intangible manners.

Follow us at: @Pearl_Zhu