The Measure of Culture and Experience

Few things are more important to business than the experience of its customers and culture of its organization. To rigorously define and develop these, we must use quality data that has been collected through measurement.

One of my favorite books of all time is “The Starbucks Experience” by Joseph A. Michelli. If you have any involvement in structuring business, culture, or working environments, you should read this book. Joseph is also the author of “The New Gold Standard” and founder of The Michelli Experience. In his book about what makes Starbucks great, Joseph writes the following: “Starbucks management understands that a competitive advantage occurs when everyone in a company appreciates that nothing is trivial and that customers notice everything. Perhaps as important, leadership has worked tirelessly to perfect every aspect of the store design… the atmosphere of the company’s shops would be a key driver to its success”.

Coffee has been around for a long time. Good coffee has been around for a long time. They key here is that Starbucks didn’t decide that success would simply come from retailing quality coffee. Starbucks realized that atmosphere is just as important as product to all customers and focused rigorously on defining and creating the entire experience. Here is what an article from the Corporate Design Foundation had to say about the subject: “The Starbucks sensation is driven not just by the quality of its products but by the entire atmosphere surrounding the purchase of its products… the details of the total experience matters.” Of course, it goes beyond just atmosphere. Starbucks has lead the way in defining how its employees should look, behave, and interact with customers. According Joseph’s book, Starbucks has defined for its employees the “Five Ways of Being”. These are more than just ways of operating; they are five ways of living. The coffee giant has changed our very culture. Ten years ago, how many meetings did you have at a coffee shop? For most of you, I would guess very few. People now stream in and out of retail stores and business facilities multiple times every day and are treated to a totally controlled and rigorously defined experience. Starbucks has changed our culture to one that expects a designed experience.

A great topic of conversation, then, is how to exactly define this culture and experience that an organization today must create. As managers of performance, we need to be actively involved in helping our teams support this experience. Of course, these cultures and experiences consist largely of behaviors. I would argue that pinpointing is the way to do this. In the book, “Performance Management”, authors Daniels and Daniels write, “…Pinpointing allows you to measure many abstract states such as morale, attitude and creativity. Once you have established the precise behaviors you will accept as evidence of these qualities, counting them is a simple task.” For example, the “Five Ways of Being” that Starbucks has outlined for its employees are simply pinpointed behaviors. By pinpointing these as behaviors that will be accepted as evidence of the desired culture, measurement becomes simpler. In measuring these behaviors, valuable data can be collected and better used to steer the organization towards the desired culture and experience for its customers. So as you look to build and develop the experience you are looking for, try starting by pinpointing the behaviors that you will accept as the outward evidence of that culture and experience. You than simply measure those behaviors (or count them) for performance data and be sure to reward the hell out of them to build momentum.
Each and every day people pour in and out of retail store fronts, business institutions and even websites that have well managed experiences. To be effective managers of performance, I think we need to define for our employees what behaviors will help contribute to the experience we are looking to provide our customers. Through the process of pinpointing and measurement, we can use the resulting data to provide feedback to our employees and move our organizations and staff teams towards the desired results.

Check out “The Starbucks Experience” and “The New Gold Standard” for great reading on these topics.

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