In the many years I have either led businesses or consulted with business leaders, there were a handful of common issues that everyone wanted to talk about. One of these is company culture.
Culture is often easier to define in terms of symptoms. For example, business owners often complain about a lack of accountability or a sense of urgency when it comes to employees. But changing company culture can be daunting for the most seasoned and savvy leaders.
Recently, during a conversation with the senior management of the Seltzer Group, I mentioned ALCOA’s use of safety as a “keystone” in its culture change strategy. The Seltzer Group specializes in controlling workers compensation costs as well as risk management and workplace safety consulting. ALCOA’s CEO, Paul O’Neill, thought very differently about safety at ALCOA. He saw safety as a symptom of a culture that needed change and went about changing company culture by changing the way people think about workplace safety. This different way of thinking helped transform ALCOA’s culture. The result? During Paul O’Neill’s tenure as CEO, ALCOA’s profits would hit a record high. By the time O’Neill retired in 2000 to become Treasury Secretary, the company’s annual net income was five times larger than before he arrived, and its market capitalization had risen by $27 billion.
Thinking differently about your company, competition, customers and employees is essential to creating success. Thinking differently is at the core of creating a distinctive advantage for you and your company.
To read more about ALCOA’s safety strategy, click here