What is Your Culture?
Gary Parr | November 16, 2015
Culture is one of those words I often hear at maintenance and reliability conferences. It seems almost everyone is trying to improve their culture. Some, unfortunately, are just trying to find a culture. There is no doubt it’s an important aspect of maintenance and reliability and for companies as a whole. It’s so important that Bob Williamson uses his Uptime column this month to begin a two-part series that starts with seven steps designed to effect culture change.
While he’s focusing on the maintenance and reliability area of a company, I think he would agree with me that culture, good or bad, is part of the greater company fabric. As such, Williamson’s steps should be applicable from the CEO’s office to the plant floor.
In many ways, a company and its culture is like a marriage. If it’s a bad culture, it poisons everything and takes more than twice the effort to eradicate and replace. But you must try because companies rarely succeed when saddled with bad culture. If it’s a good culture, it is because employees value it and the resulting work environment, and they work at sustaining and growing it every day.
Good culture is a big reason I’m excited for you to read this month’s lead story about PEX-piping manufacturer Uponor. If you’re looking for an example of a positive, supportive, “we’re-all-pulling-the-wagon-in-the-same-direction” culture, you’ll find it in Apple Valley, MN.
In recent years, I’ve come to know and work with several people at Uponor and, no matter where or when we gather, they are among the most positive, upbeat, forward-thinking individuals I’ve encountered in the business world. It’s an absolute treat to be in a room with Uponor folks.
It’s not just because they’re nice people. They are committed to making the products they produce the best in the business. That commitment goes all the way to the top, which is probably where it starts. I recently visited Uponor’s headquarters and had a chance to spend a few minutes with company president Bill Gray. We chatted about a variety of things and I really enjoyed the conversation. But the information he shared with me, while interesting and of use, was not what stuck with me. My lasting impression was that Gray is a person who heads an organization made up of good/skilled/talented people and he’s smart enough to get out of the way and let them do their jobs. I have the utmost respect for that approach because it lets people shine.
It’s also a company that cares about sustainability. The reason for my trip was an invitation to be part of Uponor’s ongoing sustainability program. My contribution was to talk about ocean reefs, what’s happening to them as a result of global warming and human activity, and to expose the attendees to the close-up beauty of the coral that is dying all over the world. It was a terrific program, not because I was a participant, but because sustainability is important to them. They made the gathering an event and encouraged everyone to attend. The root beer floats didn’t hurt, either.
Prior to my talk was a 30-min. presentation about sustainability efforts in manufacturing. It was clear from what was shared that sustainability is part of Uponor’s everyday thinking and corporate culture, not something that was quickly put in place to impress the powers that be.
Thus, when culture comes up in a discussion, it’s not unusual for me to think about the upward feeling that I get when I’m with Uponor folks. They have that treasured positive culture ingrained in their company fabric and I have a sense they know it, appreciate it, and work at it.
When you sit down with your co-workers at the next work break, initiate the culture discussion. Ask what people think about your company’s culture. If it’s bad, start with Bob Williamson’s column. If it’s good, start exploring how you can make it better. It will be worth the effort. MT