Deloitte in the News

“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

Notes on the Results of the CEO Club Meeting with Andriy Bulakh

Since 2014, Deloitte has implemented a number of corporate culture transformations and become one of the most innovative organizations in the market. How the company’s culture has changed, what affects the organization’s management model, and why values are so important – all those insights are shared by Andriy Bulakh, Managing Partner at Deloitte Ukraine, during the Q&A session at CEO Club.

What is the difference between the business conducted by your company back in 2014 and the business you are doing now?

It used to be a conservative business. We had started growing from a closed, structured audit business. During the four years, we have conducted many experiments within our business, launched a range of various innovations, and experienced a number of mistakes. We have also changed our attitude towards mistakes and started talking about them openly.


So, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Have you made transformations in order to change the corporate culture? Or is it quite the opposite, you have no intentions to change the culture and make transformations just to gain benefits in business?

At first, I wanted to change a lot in our culture. Then, I realized how important it was for the corporate culture to change by itself based on the goals set. For example, the year of 2014 was a difficult time, both financially and morally. It was then that we understood that sometimes it was necessary to refuse from what seemed important, but failed to bring the team together. In the long run, value is something that relates to people's behavior.

We have established specific behavioral markers that unite us – the five shared values: Integrity – clarity and transparency in decision-making processes, As One – meeting commitments to each other, Service Excellence – customer-oriented and high-quality services, Aspiration for Development – a desire to develop, and Positive Attitude – behavioral factors, including faith in own strength, energy, and positive thinking.  So that people manage to grow together with those values, certain time is required.  For this reason, we set a specific goal – to create a value-based organization by the end of 2019.  By this time, we expect that 90% of Deloittees will be able to respond positively to the question of whether Deloitte lives according to its values, and any employee who has worked in the company for more than a year will be able to conduct a training to newcomers on our values.


Which of the above-mentioned values support a ‘healthy aggressiveness’ of a business, without which it is also impossible to exist?

Service Excellence. This value combines such elements as an ability to understand the clients’ needs and sometimes assist in their shaping, make conscious commitments and comply with them, seek for opportunities and exceed expectations. This applies not only for an external client, but the internal as well: commitments should be met regardless of the type of relationship and cooperation. When employees work together in a team and not by themselves, their performance is several times higher than of those who just come to ‘click’ on some files and then go home. 

At first, I also made many mistakes. I underestimated the importance of the fact that, at the beginning, you had to ask many questions, communicate a lot, inquire, and only then come to a certain conclusion together. All concepts need to be introduced gradually. In most cases, the first reaction of a person to change is negative, “Why do I need it?” It takes time to make a conscious decision.


You have conducted a large number of sessions on improving behavioral patterns. In this context, a question arises: which of the above tools tried over the last four years work best to achieve real changes in culture and positive results?

At some point, I realized that a key factor in corporate relations was involvement, and the authority had nothing to do with it. Now it seems that I have been mistaken: a soft management style does not always help people take required steps. The best solution appears to be a combination of involvement and a ‘magic kick’ that helps people to get started. During one of the surveys, I rated myself as an authoritarian leader, but it turned out that the team considered me as being too soft. The colleagues admit by themselves that they need a ‘magic kick’.  


What other tools, apart from sessions, have you tried?

We have offered more freedom to our employees – an opportunity to work from home once a week and a flexible start of the working day from 8:00 to 10:00, and no formal dress code required. We have incorporated values in the recruiting process and are on the way of incorporating them in business processes.


Have you yourself chosen a specific definition of the ‘value’ or involved consultants to the process?

Curiously enough, the concept of ‘values’ has been created by chance. When I headed Audit Department, we used to hold sessions devoted to our vision of a particular department. We tried to respond to the question of how we saw Audit Department in a four-year perspective, discussed its functions and specific features. We consolidated the results of our brainstorming session and began to remove everything that did not fit in. It turned out that some points were clearly not our vision, but we could not just put them aside. Those were our values.  Subsequently, we held similar sessions on shaping the company’s values within the teams of 10–15 persons and 40–50 persons, with an external facilitator involved. And I did not participate in those sessions as a moderator in order to minimize my influence on the process.


If you look back at the time four years ago, what global conclusions have you arrived at?

Before you start making big plans and hurry up to implement them, you need to check everything and make sure that your boat is safe. There are always a number of business processes that need to be fixed, and those particular processes form the necessary basis. The second point is that you should not confuse faith with optimism. Do not hesitate to change; however, you should realize that this is an evolutionary process that will take quite a time.

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