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Culture Beats Strategy

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“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” Peter Drucker famously said. As a leader, you must understand that culture is a critical factor in your organization’s long term success, and it is up to you to learn how to influence and change it.
What is Culture, Exactly?

Some people mix up culture and the fun activities and perks that some companies offer to their employees. The free yoga classes in the morning, the free coffee bars, the company parties, the comfy chairs, and so on. Despite of how important those perks are and how they likely create a very comfortable working environment, culture is the behavior of management, the ways your employees act in critical situations, how they treat their internal and external customers, how they manage disruption and respond to change. As you can see, all of these are behaviors that influence your company’s performance, adaptability, and are simply the “how” your company executes your strategy.

Consider your culture To be

A Concrete Fence

The fence is initially made of wet concrete. In the beginning, and until the concrete dries, you can write your initials and make other cosmetic changes. However, once the concrete has dried, it will be more difficult to make changes. The same is true for culture; yes, you can change the culture of your organization, but it will be much more difficult. It will have to be drastic changes, real physical and visible things, like smashing the concrete wall. 

Leadership must be clear on their company culture, not on how they want their employees to behave, but on how their employees actually behave. It will be extremely difficult to build positive results from your organizational transformation if your strategies and culture are not perfectly aligned. It’s no surprise that so many business transformation initiatives fail; the problem isn’t a lack of transformation plans, but a failure to consider culture. When you understand your company’s true culture, it is much easier to create a strategic business plan because you are familiar with all of the factors.

If you are concerned that your

Culture is not aligned with your strategy

You should consider implementing specific behavioral approaches that will assist you in shaping the culture that you desire.

First and foremost, you must understand your WHY

  • Why do you feel the need to alter your culture?

  • What exactly isn't working?

  • What are your objectives?

  • What are you striving to achieve?

  • And who (the company) do you need to be in order to achieve those goals?

Changing your culture

Is A Difficult Task

Just because you recognized the need to change your culture and created a formal culture plan does not guarantee that people will follow it. Change is an individual experience. Change begins with you, the leader, in the room. Do as you say if you want people to follow you. No one will change if you and the leadership beneath you do not change and do not hold each other accountable. Break the habits and perceptions that stifle collaboration and group thinking and suffocate your strategy. Ensure that everyone understands how their work contributes to the realization of your vision. 

The bottom line is that employees will adopt the culture modeled by their managers. Your culture is defined by more than just fancy mission and value statements or company perks. It is the behavior of your leaders. To change the culture, you must first change your leaders’ behavior, and if that is not possible, you must change your leadership. Otherwise, your strategy will be devoured by your culture.

change management

About the author:

Carole Nicolaides, MBA is the CEO of Progressive Leadership Inc. and has over 20 years business experience in the areas of organizational change management, organizational effectiveness, program management and leadership development. She held senior roles in the information technology, financial services, communications, government agencies and healthcare industries. Carole’s pragmatic, fluff-free and grounded perspective on leadership prepares management and their teams actively to lead the change. Contact us today to learn more about how you can create a culture that supports your changing initiatives.

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