It is a shame that a great culture – which puts all of its efforts into the service and experience of the employees, customers and vendors – is so rare, according to David Vik in his book The Culture Secret: How to Empower People and Companies No Matter What You Sell. Cultures like that possessed by Zappos should be the norm and not the exception in the corporate world of the Information Age.
So, what is organizational culture, and how do you go about creating it or changing it? According to the author, culture consists of a structure and of the living, breathing people in it. The five key elements of the structure are:
The living, breathing people inside this organizational structure have habits, routines, shared language, beliefs, thoughts, decisions and actions which are created by and contribute to the culture. These are influenced by leadership, HR (which the author prefers to call human empowerment), relationships with customers, brand, and the desired experience that is to be delivered.
Zappos is well known for its extraordinary customer service, and much of the author’s authority to speak on the subject derives from the four-and-a-half years he spent working at Zappos in the role of coach. Prior to that he spent many years running a chiropractic clinic which also had an extraordinary culture.
A number of the stories used by the author to illustrate points appear to be apocryphal rather than purely historical. This does not alter the emotional truth behind them, but may not appeal to readers who prefer to read footnoted fully verifiable material. Nonetheless, in my opinion this book demonstrates in some detail how an organization can meet with commercial success while spending considerable efforts on creating extraordinary experiences for both customers and employees.