Next week I will be moderating a conversation with Joanne Lipman, luminary of the publishing
industry and author of, That’s What She Said. And Jonathan Sposato, entrepreneur, investor
and author of Better Together. As we prepared for SHE Summit, I was asked an interesting
question, “Politics, Policy, Process -what have you found to be most effective in leading
My response? 5% Politics, 20% Policy and 80% Process.
If the question had been asked in a more open-ended way, my answer would have been an
immediate and unmitigated, culture. Culture is a company’s most leverageable asset to effect
change at an accelerated rate.
Arguably, politics are an external factor that affect a company’s culture. Policy offers the
guardrails for acceptability within an organization, often informed or required by the legislation
that politics produces. While legislation may be necessary, it takes too long. Why would
companies wait to realize the proven benefits of diversity?
Both politics and policy exist within a compliance paradigm. And if compliance is the dominant
intent, you may stay out of trouble (maybe), but you will never be a great company.
This is where culture comes in, it transcends politics and policy to unleash the potential of every
aspect of the company. As Jon Katzenbach writes, “you want to move from rational compliance
to emotional commitment.” This is what a carefully curated culture does, it engages people at
a deep level and points them all in the same direction.
Process, and the operating system within which it lives, is the most overlooked aspect of
corporate culture. In fact, most of the time it’s not thought of at all, especially in creative
environments. Companies will spend weeks, months, even years contemplating their Purpose,
Mission, Vision, Values etc. They’ll invest millions in beautiful, eco-friendly and purposeful
workplaces designed for interaction and then do nothing to design HOW the work is done.
HOW the work is done is the defining feature of an employee’s relationship with company. It
the biggest contributor to how people feel and how people feel, at scale, is the company’s
culture. They may be able to parrot back your values in a survey, but it’s their emotional state
that makes the culture real. So, designing processes that support the peak states of high-
performing teams is best lever to pull to create accelerated change. I look forward to discussing
this and more with Joanne and Jonathan next week.