Culture: The Dark Matter of Organisations

Interesting fact: All the visible matter in the Universe such as stars, planets, nebulae etc. make up 5% of the total mass of the universe.  The other 95% is made up of something no one has ever seen or measured. Cosmologists have named this mysterious thing, Dark Matter.  We know it’s there because if it wasn’t, the entire universe would fly apart and our solar system, together with planet earth and life as we know it, would not exist.  It is quite literally the glue which holds the universe together. We cannot see it, but we can feel it.

Just like dark matter keeps the universe together and gives it life, so a great culture gives life to an organization.  Culture (defined as: “the way we do things in this company”), unlike management, cannot be taught, written down in a book or a manual. 

We cannot see culture, but we can certainly feel it.  We feel it as soon as we walk into a business be it a restaurant, office or a shop. It is the glue which holds an organization together and it is the factor which allows businesses to thrive even, through tough times.  Culture permeates the entire organization. Without the right culture, a business will find it difficult to bring to life its strategic objectives and goals. It is the job of the business leaders to lead the way delivering a high-performance culture

When Richard Branson launched Virgin Atlantic on, at the time, the most competitive airline route in the world (London-New York), he had a strategy to provide the best customer service and experience on his aircraft. The key to him delivering on that strategy was in the creation of an organisational culture which was second to none and one which the competition could not copy. At the salaries that Virgin paid its air crew were among the lowest in the industry, but yet people were lining up to join the Virgin Atlantic team to be part of that culture.  As Branson would readily admit, creating the right culture was central to the airline delivering on its brand promise.

It is, therefore, important that business leaders and owners pay attention to developing the right culture for their business.  For without the right culture, executing the most basic strategy will be an uphill battle. With the right culture – one which is grounded in Integrity, Honesty, Staff Empowerment and a relentless focus on customer service – the impossible will become possible.  So, once you have spent precious time, money and energy to develop the right strategy for your business, ensure that you have the necessary organizational dark matter to deliver on that competition busting strategy.

-Frank Vein