Culture Signals

Why does Zappos celebrate wildly inefficient customer service calls? Why did FAVI brick up the window that allowed managers to see what was happening on the factory floor? Culture signals.

Culture signals are vivid demonstrations by which leaders send the message, “Here’s what we value now. And we value it so much that we’re willing to sacrifice this other good thing to it.”

When the late-CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, wanted to create a strong culture of customer service at Zappos, he could have simply declared customer service was value #1. He could have told stories about calls that were both efficient and left the customer happy. Most leaders would. But Hsieh didn’t. He chose to celebrate outlandishly long customer service calls—over 10 hours on the phone to sell just one pair of shoes!

The genius with this culture signal is how it releases customer service agents from having to reason about the tension between customer service and call length. The cognitive load typically associated with “Should I stay on this call or not?” evaporates.

HW Show Culture Signals

Check out this week’s Humanizing Work Show episode to hear Richard and Peter explain how culture signals work and how leaders can design their own culture signals to create the changes they want to see. And learn more about culture signals and creating lasting change by joining us at our next Leading Organizational Transformation workshop!

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