Blog

< Return to Blog

Creating a World Class Culture: Burn the Floor

01 June 2014

By Mike Conway, CEO & Founder of XVenture

On a rare occasion in business life, you get the chance to participate in something unique and special. For the XVenture team, this happened in the first half of this year. Our business focus is working with people to help them be the best they can be so we are in the fortunate situation of constantly seeing people grow, develop and improve more than they could ever imagine. Working life has also taken me to all corners of the globe and from this, I have had the benefit of observing many great, good and poor leadership, team interaction and non-interaction and organization cultures.

It's well documented that a strong culture can have a significant impact on performance when compared to 'unremarkable competitors.' (James L Heskett: (The Culture Cycle: how to shape the unforeseen force that transforms performance. FT Press 2012). However, it's difficult to imagine that I would find one of the great examples and contemporary models of organizational culture in a ballroom dance show. This isn't 'Dancing With The Stars', or 'So You Think You Can Dance', or 'Strictly Ballroom'. It's a brand that's been around longer, taking it's origins from Elton John's 50th birthday party when Harley Medcalf saw a group of young dancers captivating all the party goers. 'Burn the Floor' was born. Together with World Champions Jason Gilkison (now known as one of the World's great choreographers and TV judges in ballroom dancing) and Peta Roby, Harley has quietly created a dance company that is without doubt the World's great ballroom dance company.

Tasked with creating a documentary about Burn the Floor, I travelled with the XVenture team from January to April this year, interviewing and filming every element of Burn the Floor: staging; rehearsals; planning; preparation; scheduling; performance; expert observers; fans and the stars of the show, past and present. On locations across the World: Los Angeles, Miami, the Caribbean, New York, London, Perth and Sydney.

Much has been written about culture, particularly in the last three decades: Handy; Johnson; Deal & Kennedy; Kotter; Hofsted; Schein; Harris; Senge; Peters and many others have all contributed to the subject. Most recently John Coleman wrote an excellent piece in the Harvard Business Review blog network in 2013 on organisational culture. This provides a useful template for a commentary on Burn the Floor. (http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/05/six-components-of-culture/)

Coleman observes six 'common components of great cultures': Vision, values, practices, people, narrative, and place.

Vision - This guides a company values 'and orients every decision employees make'.

Burn the Floor set out to provide the best dancers in the world a place to show their art. From the outset, Harley committed to only the best. His first action? Bring into the fold the World champion ballroom dancing pair, Jason Gilkison and Peta Roby. Setting the bar at the highest possible level has been a fundamental element of Burn the Floor culture.

GetImage.ashx

Values - The core of an organisation's culture, setting out the guidelines for attitudes and behaviours of how employees treat each other, their partners, suppliers and clients.

Burn the Floor has set out to provide a home for World Class dancers. The Company is called a 'family', with the focus on making Burn the Floor the very best in the World. The Company's show sets the standard. The run on Broadway of over 190 shows is still legendary, not necessarily by the number of shows which is considerable, but by the energy and intensity of performance. Every dancer has to be able to achieve the same level of performance at every show, on every occasion. Not even being a world champion can guarantee the physical and mental toughness required to cope with the regime.

When we interviewed past and present dancers to confirm if the values that had been set by the Company's principals had been embraced, there was 100% connectivity. Language, emotion and experience of each were so consistent. As significant as this, were our interviews with several of Burn the Floor's key partners, expert observers and fans. Absolute clarity on what Burn the Floor represents and presents was consistent amongst everyone we spoke to.

GetImage-1.ashx

Practices - This is where the values are translated into specific practices and procedures. 'If an organization values 'flat' hierarchy, it must encourage more junior team members to dissent in discussions without fear or negative repercussions.'

Critical to the success of Burn the Floor is the belief that the show and the delivery of the show is greater than any one dancer. Big named dancers known on TV's biggest shows around the World often spent a number of years with Burn the Floor prior to their TV careers. 'Dancing with the Stars' judge and dancer, Kym Johnson started with Burn the Floor. As did US 'Dancing with the Stars' Peta Murgatroyd, Sasha Farber and Sharna Burgess. BBC 'Strictly Come Dancing Stars', Kevin Clifton, Joanne Hauer, Robin Clifton, Janette Manrara and Alijaz Skorjenac have all been with Burn the Floor prior to their tv celebrity status. As has Australian 'Dancing with the Stars' performers Jessica Raffa, Ash-Leigh Hunter and Trent Whiddon.

To be a Burn the Floor dancer requires an acceptance and commitment to practicing to perfection; of twelve hour rehearsal days sometimes even on show days; of long busy touring schedules and shows that are more arduous than a two hour high-intensity workout.

Dancers2

People - The people employed need to embrace the values of the business fully and hence the choice of people is absolutely paramount.

Burn the Floor only recruits the World's best. Most of the dancers who are offered contracts have either been national or World champions in ballroom dancing but have also proven their work ethic, dedication, and commitment to their art and have got the attitude and spirit to work in a team rather than as an individual. They have to be flexible enough to travel and perform often for weeks at a time in different parts of the World. Despite each performer being at the elite level, they are all grounded and level- headed with a 'low ego'. Sometimes they could be living with little down time and personal space. All the performers need to have the highest levels of physical fitness and mental toughness to survive.

DVD

Narrative - Every organization has a unique history and story. Unearthing this and delivering this is fundamental to the creation and continuity of culture.

The Burn the Floor story is very much connected to its culture. Every dancer knows that Harley Medcalf started the organization to provide a platform for the greatest dancers to be seen. In the next year, Burn the Floor will play to somewhere around 750 thousand people. The narrative is so important to the culture that Harley commissioned a special documentary connecting the story to the dancers from past and present. The process was fascinating with the doors thrown open with no holds barred. Such a positive outpouring of support and belief in the Company was seen at first hand. This documentary, released firstly in Japan in May 2014, is now given to every new member of the Company as a source of how the culture and organization are shaped.

Newspaper

Place - Place certainly shapes culture. Financial sectors live and breathe in New York and London, and tech organisations reside in the thousands in Silicon Valley.

Burn the Floor's home since its inception is wherever the audience is. On the stage at: Broadway, the West End, Korea, Japan and Australia. Wherever that stage is, is where Burn the Floor resides. Providing a location for the greatest dancers in the World to be seen performing their art form at the highest possible level.

Stage

(Acknowledgement: J Coleman HBR blog May 2013)

By Mike Conway Founder and CEO of XVenture © 2014

Burn the Floor provides a fantastic model in creating a World Class culture. The documentary will soon be available for release globally. You can register your interest at www.burnthefloor.com

Feel free to make contact with the author: to discuss this article or any other matter relating to XVenture: mike@xventure.com.au

http://www.xventure.com.au

img

Stay up to date on News, Products and Events

Join our Mailing List
Privacy Policy

We are XVenture.

Our Privacy Policy ensures your right to privacy and we recognise that any personal information we may collect about you will only be used for the purposes indicated in our policy. It is important to us that you are confident that any personal information we collect from you or is received by us from you will be treated with appropriate respect ensuring protection of your personal information.

Our commitment in respect of personal information is to abide by the National Privacy Principles for the protection of personal information, as set out in the Privacy Act and in any other relevant law.

Why we collect your personal information

Because you have subscribed to receive information about our company, media releases, events and services.

To whom will we disclose your personal information?

We do not disclose your email address to any other party. We only collect this information to send you news and information about our company, products and services.

How safe and secure is your personal information that we hold?

We will take reasonable steps to protect your personal information by storing it in a secure environment and when the information is no longer needed for the purpose for which the information was used or disclosed, it will be destroyed or permanently de-identified.

We will also take reasonable steps to protect any personal information from misuse, loss and un-authorised access, modification or disclosure.

Changes in our Privacy Policy

We are constantly reviewing all of our policies and we endeavour to keep up to date with market expectations.

Technology is constantly changing, as is the law and market place practice.

As a consequence we may change this privacy policy from time to time or as the need arises.

This privacy policy came into existence on the 1 January 2014.

Disclaimer

We are XVenture.

This web site is provided by Australian Institute of Leadership Pty. Ltd.

Your access to this website and your use of the services provided through it is subject to these legally binding terms and conditions. Please read them carefully.

Disclaimer of Warranty and Limitation of Liability


Use of Website

You acknowledge that:

  1. this website is designed to be used in conjunction with the following web browsers and that you may experience difficulties with use and access to this website unless you use such browsers:
    • Internet Explorer 5 or greater,
    • Netscape 5 or greater.
  2. the Internet is not error or fault free and that you may experience interruptions and difficulties accessing this website from time to time;
  3. we may immediately and without notice suspend the operation of this website:
    • during any technical failure, modification or maintenance involving the website; or
    • if we, acting reasonably, deem it necessary to protect against fraudulent or illegal use or to otherwise protect us or our service providers from legal liability.

Registration and Passwords

We may provide you with a username, password, telephone number and other information to enable access to parts of this website.

You agree that you:

You are aware that it may be possible for a third party to obtain your username and password by un-authorised means via your computer. It is your responsibility to take steps to prevent this from occurring, by means such as regularly changing your password and installing security software on your computer.

Misuse of this website

You must not:

  1. Hack into this website or our computer systems.
    Hacking means malicious damage or interference and includes, without limitation, mail bombing, propagating viruses, worms or other types of malicious programs, deliberate attempts to overload a system, broadcast attacks or any other method designed to damage or interfere with the operation of a computer system or website;
  2. Use robots or any other automated system to take information or data from this website.

Intellectual Property

You acknowledge and agree that the content (including without limitation the text, graphics, photographs, sound or other material presented on this website ("Content") is protected by copyright, trade mark, patents or other proprietary rights and laws. You are only permitted to use the Content as authorised by Australian Institute of Leadership Pty. Ltd.

General

These terms and conditions are be governed by the laws in force in the State of New South Wales, Australia and each party hereto irrevocably submits to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of that State.

Disclaimer

We are XVenture.

This web site is provided by Australian Institute of Leadership Pty. Ltd.

Your access to this website and your use of the services provided through it is subject to these legally binding terms and conditions. Please read them carefully.

Disclaimer of Warranty and Limitation of Liability


Use of Website

You acknowledge that:

  1. this website is designed to be used in conjunction with the following web browsers and that you may experience difficulties with use and access to this website unless you use such browsers:
    • Internet Explorer 5 or greater,
    • Netscape 5 or greater.
  2. the Internet is not error or fault free and that you may experience interruptions and difficulties accessing this website from time to time;
  3. we may immediately and without notice suspend the operation of this website:
    • during any technical failure, modification or maintenance involving the website; or
    • if we, acting reasonably, deem it necessary to protect against fraudulent or illegal use or to otherwise protect us or our service providers from legal liability.

Registration and Passwords

We may provide you with a username, password, telephone number and other information to enable access to parts of this website.

You agree that you:

You are aware that it may be possible for a third party to obtain your username and password by un-authorised means via your computer. It is your responsibility to take steps to prevent this from occurring, by means such as regularly changing your password and installing security software on your computer.

Misuse of this website

You must not:

  1. Hack into this website or our computer systems.
    Hacking means malicious damage or interference and includes, without limitation, mail bombing, propagating viruses, worms or other types of malicious programs, deliberate attempts to overload a system, broadcast attacks or any other method designed to damage or interfere with the operation of a computer system or website;
  2. Use robots or any other automated system to take information or data from this website.

Intellectual Property

You acknowledge and agree that the content (including without limitation the text, graphics, photographs, sound or other material presented on this website ("Content") is protected by copyright, trade mark, patents or other proprietary rights and laws. You are only permitted to use the Content as authorised by Australian Institute of Leadership Pty. Ltd.

General

These terms and conditions are be governed by the laws in force in the State of New South Wales, Australia and each party hereto irrevocably submits to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of that State.