No innovation can solve firm’s broken values


Many companies desire to hold onto a shared set of values, goals, attitudes, and practices summarised as aspiring to be descent corporate citizens, building products and services that add value while working well with others in different ecosystems.

With the growth in teams, increased competition, regulation, and dynamic marketplaces, I have observed that the ‘goodness’ on which many businesses start erodes over time. While we look toward technology for solutions to challenges we face, many organisations need to hit the reset button and relook the culture and values that run along their corporate veins.

It is one thing to have well-written prose in the ‘About Us’ section of your website or framed in bold print in the lobby area for all to see, and another to live through the experiences of an engaged supplier.

I focus on the supply side since many businesses have no issues connecting with customers, their source of much-needed revenue. Suppliers are often seen as an assault on the corporate purse that should remain undisturbed for as long as possible.

Often, they are first to face various restrictions, whether from tempestuous markets wreaking havoc, attempts at self-correction when a poor strategy fails to deliver, or a myriad of other scenarios that a business must encounter in their lifecycle.

In times like this, the shared ethos of an organisation shines through. The manifestation of true character and culture is made tangible by the c-suite. How the top behaves distills across the organisation to positive or negative effect. The larger the team, the more amplified the outcome and reverberation across the entire organisation.

Unfortunately, we end up building solutions for the invisible outcomes caused by a broken culture. For example, there should be no need to hedge against payment delays using expensive commercial instruments where products or services are delivered and realistic schedules provided.

We should not be thinking of smart contracts, but we have been conditioned that pen to paper counts for nothing on these streets and that one must lawyer up even for simple engagements.

Frustration of external publics may be deemed a key performance indicator in some quarters. Poor culture clashes with the belief systems and attitudes of the majority, and over time, staff either leave or become consumed by it.

No amount of technology and innovation will fix what requires inflection and radical organisational surgery to restore.

Njihia is the head of business and partnerships at Sure Corporation | | @mbuguanjihia