Days after DJ Durkin arrived at the University of Maryland last November to coach the school’s football team, before he even hired a staff or recruited a player, he called in the maintenance crew and declared, as The Washington Post put it, that “all traces of the old regime were to be stripped and removed.”
Walls were repainted. Conference rooms were opened up. Signs were torn down. Portraits of former Terrapins who had advanced to pro football were hung in each of the position meeting rooms to inspire current players.
“We’re trying to change the culture of what we’re doing,” Durkin told the Post. “There is a way we’re going to meet. There is a way we’re going to eat. There is a way we’re going to practice. There is a way we’re going to work out.”
The Terrapins’ new coach reads the same playbook that Chason Hecht quoted during the ProSales 100 Conference in late February. Hecht is president of Retensa, a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies recruit, hire, and retain employees. But rather than talk specifics in those areas, he spent the entire hour explaining how culture pervades an operation, and thus how much of a housecleaning you must do if you want to change that culture.
You should start with what Hecht calls artifacts—the visible elements of the organization, including logos, signs, corporate structure, processes, dress code, and even the knickknacks left lying about. I remember visiting a ProBuild yard years ago in which I saw a big cartoon character on the wall. It turns out he was the mascot for the yard’s previous owner. At that store, ProBuild’s logo might have been out front, but the cartoon’s continued presence suggests the ProBuild name wasn’t exactly engraved in the hearts of employees.
A yard’s layout can be considered another artifact. When Hammond Lumber opened a new facility in Maine, the manager put all the sales reps’ and internal staffs’ desks in the middle of the store, ringed by counters. He wanted them to see customers every day, and customers to see and interact with the staff.
You might have heard talk about artifacts before in the form of advice from consultants such as Sandy Sawyer to examine your “first touch”—the impression you give when a customer enters your store. Do they see a welcoming, organized space created to meet their needs? Or have they stumbled into a collection of hunting trophies, dusty displays, dim lights, and soiled pathways? It matters.
Artifacts visually display your values, Hecht says. Those values in turn drive beliefs—the fundamental, often unconsciously expressed assumptions underlying what your company does. To change your culture, start by changing your artifacts.