Companies can be seen from many perspectives: from one point of view, they are finely tuned money-making machines. Another, rather metaphorical, point of view describes a company as a collection of small stories that contribute to a large narrative.

In today’s article, we are looking at how these stories can shape the destinies of companies, small and large alike.

Watercooler Heroes

Take a quick look back at the last weeks of 2015: did you notice this typical end-of-year increase in activity, particularly in the Sales and Marketing departments? “Quick! Close the deal!” And when the teams get their act together during the last days of the year, their heroes are feted.

These “heroic” stories are still making the rounds at the water cooler months later: how Mrs Peters saved the project by putting everything in motion to meet the customer’s (costly) special requirements, or how Mr Alex made a round million in sales just before Christmas by conjuring up an advance payment.

However, knighting employees because of these kinds of effort means rewarding the wrong behaviour. False heroes like Mr Alex can only emerge if the sales pipeline is not kept in proper order, and Mrs Peters’ achievement is possible only if there is a pronounced silo mentality in Marketing and Sales.

A village firefighter will never be a hero if there are never any fires. But he can succumb to the temptation to create the right conditions for his heroism … and set the barn on fire.

Alignment Incentive: Get the Heroes on Stage!

Heroes are the standard bearers of your company’s culture. Do you want this culture to be determined by extinguishing bush fires that could’ve been avoided?

Make sure to encourage the real heroes: those who create conditions which do not emerge from catastrophes. Help your staff to learn from those real heroes and your customers to reap the benefits.

Look for the real heroes in your company: the culture carriers who support change and do a great job, and are not simply firefighters who live off others’ (or their own) mistakes. Sometimes, these are not the ones who are talked about at the water cooler.

Who of your people does a thoroughly good (and probably even undramatic) job? And who really carries your company forward?

Give these people a stage: pay them visits and give them praise. Have them interviewed for your staff newsletter. Present their project at a meeting. Knight the real heroes.

What’s Making us Happy: Spotlight on our Achievements

We are providing support for a change to the company culture in a large production facility. Over many years, the company has developed a clear, although strictly hierarchical management system which can no longer keep up with the increasing demand for flexibility.

We are assisting in a change project aimed at changing this old system to a new one, which provides the “grass roots” with more responsibility in order to (among other things) strengthen the competitiveness of the company and to increase staff motivation.