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EP: 63 – Culture Matters: The Four Values to Supercharge Your Business with Alan O’Neill

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Alan O'Neill Tara Nolan Game Of Teams Podcast

Introduction: Alan O Neill is a Consultant, Author and Keynote Speaker specialising in Change Management,  Organisational Culture & Customer Experience. He is a visiting Professor with ESA Beirut and for more than 30 years he was worked with some of the most iconic brands from around the world. His latest book, Culture Matter, The Four Values to Supercharge your Business makes an overwhelming case for a carefully designed Culture. 


Podcast Episode Summary

This episode explores the importance of calling out values for Organisational health and success. Alan helps me and I hope the listeners get crystal clear on why Culture Matters and what you can do to further improve business success. In particular he explains why he chose the four values he describes in his book, Customer Centricity, Respect, Accountability and Agility. 

Points made over the episode

  • Alan O Neill started his career in Retail and at the age of 24 opened his first jewellery store. After a change in the business climate he moved into training 
  • He built Harvest a well-known training company here in Ireland 
  • He recognised that training is only one subject of change and he wanted to add more value to clients across the entire supply chain. He started his own company Kara 23 years ago offering Organisational Change, Culture Change and Customer Experience Programs 
  • Every Organisation has a culture and only a very few actually work hard to define theirs. 
  • Culture is articulated by repetitive behaviours, often ones that were never envisaged. 
  • Culture is always being nibbled at and it is important to recognise that Culture shapes strategy and not the other way around. 
  • Important that Leaders are brought on a journey to understand the impact of their culture. 
  • Alan identified the 4 values he calls out in his book after 30 years in business and by noticing the ones that were consistently absent. 
  • Customer Centricity is important today given our global connectivity and the speed/visibility by which customers can accept or reject product. Customer Experience is the leveller. It is the new battle ground not Product Differentiation of old. 
  • Respect is the second values Alan cites. He remarked on how wonderful it was that Joe Biden called out respect as a value he wanted to see in the Whitehouse as a way of delineating the significant difference from the previous administration
  • Accountability is the third. This is a value that helps people take “real” responsibility and ownership for their roles. 
  • Agile is an almost must have in business today to support the frenetic pace we are living
  • Companies very often have values, they are on their websites and are on the walls. They are very often not lived. Good practice is to check, design a survey, conduct a focus group or 1:1 to see what is living in the minds of an organisations people 
  • Values are often unseen, even unconscious but they are part of our DNA and instinctively will guide our behaviours. That is why it is important to call out the values you want to see lived. 
  • Calling out particular values will set the tone, provide an organisational framework for Leadership, Processes and the way things will get done. 
  • Alan does not agree that people are resistant to change he believes they are more resistant to coercion. Culture Change requires time and it is important to be contextual share the “Why” for a culture refresh
  • The risk that employing Alan’s 4 values will mean that companies are cooky cutters of each other is a nonsense. Values are interpreted differently by different companies and Alan shares the example of Selfridges and Primark where both would call out Customer Centricity as being a core value. Their approach and interpretation of Customer Centricity is entirely different 
  • Teams need to live the values set by the organisation and as a practice they should regularly reflect on how they are living those values and how they are behaving with each other. 
  • Top Teams need to role model Organisational Values and the CEO is responsible for this activity. 
  • Alan describes how he would support an organisation do a Culture Refresh and it boils down to three phases-Discovery-Launch-Roll Out. 
  • The Launch is incredibly important as it creates an iconic memory in the minds of the people working in the company and makes a cascade of values that much easier. 
  • Culture is a well-known phenomenon but Alan would love if more people understood the impact a current culture is having on an Organisation. He encourages business owners and Leaders to get their hands around Culture and call out the required behaviours otherwise they will be assumed. 
  • He also warned that if Companies and Organisations have a set of values and they know they are not living them then they should gently take them down because they are doing more harm than good. 
  • His book is a lovely and memorable read 

Resources shared 

  • O’Neill. Alan: Culture Matters: The Four “Must-Have” Values to Supercharge Your Business. Open Press 

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