Transforming Your Culture and Your Results


Strategy+Business magazine recently featured an article about Barclays Bank and their transformation as company. In 2003, Barclays management resolved to accelerate performance and in Spring of 2006 they announced the bank’s best performance in its 300-year history. Not bad.

The results were no accident but a result of a well-executed strategic plan. The article shares some principles that helped them succeed:

  1. Setting a Vision: To “Earn, Invest and Grow.” This is extremely important to an organization. Setting a vision that people can easily understand and have the freedom to execute within is tremendous. It sets the tone for every team member to pull the organization in one, unified direction. Too many organizations are either “vision-less” or change the vision far too frequently. We can learn from Barclays – set the vision, remain focused and create small victories that lead to overall success.
  2. Adopting a Universal [Banking] Model. Too often our organizations develop unproductive silos and as a result cut down on effeciency, collaboration and trust. Barclays decided to move across territorial boundaries. Their focus on single customer interfaces, de-centralization and no silo thinking (or building) propelled their growth and customer retention.
  3. Creating Focused Points of Strategic Control and Direction. Barclays began combining functions that made sense for their financial services customers. They were able to cross-train people and have skills is a “cluster” to better serve their customers and create highly motivated teams. They obviously aggressively looked for better ways to serve customer needs and as a result they created raving fans who helped propel growth.
  4. Executing a People-Based Agenda. They decided to champion talent. They wanted to grow their employees and selectively recruit top talent that grasped the vision. We’ve seen it in many other places – successful companies who delight their customers also put their employees first (i.e., Southwest Airlines, Pixar Entertainment and Google to name three).
  5. Putting Customer Relationships First. The other day on of my leadership team told me about a local Starbucks. He was there, with several business associates in a business meeting. The music was a bit loud and so he asked if they could turn it down. They not only turned it down, they turned it off until his meeting ended. They put customers first and obviously so did Barclays. The local Starbucks risked losing sales in music to serve a customer. Barclays measured customer service in a variety of ways and made decisions based on those measurements. Plus they’ve developed a culture, driven by the vision that it’s everyone’s job to be “in touch, directly or indirectly” with customers.

It took thousands of employees to make this work for Barclays and they achieved the vision. “We have seen firsthand that when people at all levels follow a customer-focused ethic, with the support of the corporate structure and metrics, it can raise the metabolic rate of the entire company.” This focus served to accelerate growth.

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