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A culture that enables strategy

Many of us have heard Peter Drucker’s famous saying: Culture eats strategy for breakfast; but what if we could create a culture that enables strategy

Initial Steps

The first thing to do is agree on a definition of what organizational culture is, it can have different meanings, so agreeing on a clear definition is a must, a good definition is: Culture illustrates the accepted norms, values and traditional behaviour of a group.

The second important aspect as you embark on cultural change, is to also have a clarity on why are we doing this?

Being aligned that we want to build a Culture to enable our strategic ambitions is very different from building a culture to engage our employees.

The premise is you build a culture to enable strategy, that culture will attract and retain the people that will thrive in that culture, and thus be engaged, it will also deter the people that are not comfortable in that culture.

Once you have a clear strategy next step is mapping your current and desired culture, this assessment will provide the roadmap for change. There are multiple tools to assess culture, most of them use several dimensions to measure it.

Get the assessment done by multiple teams at different levels and areas of the organization to see what the perceptions and alignment of the change to happen are.

If the results vary much, then the key priority is gaining alignment, and that might require more discussion and focus on the strategy.

Once the from to is defined, a broad team must define what are the behaviours in the new culture. Culture is shaped by individuals behaving, interacting and working in certain ways. 

The behaviours will be the key elements of the change.

Bringing others on the journey.

There are three levers to pull: Head, Heart and Hands.

Head is explaining the need for change, where we are and where we need to be.

It’s a rational exercise, that requires communication and reinforcement. It must be done using different tools and approaches as we all have different communication preferences. A good way to make the message more tangible is to use internal examples where teams have demonstrated the behaviours and culture we want to have.

The heart is about our change journey. Change happens one individual at a time. This is best achieved by presenting individuals with a view of how they match the desired behaviours, using a 360 tool can be powerful so individuals realize what changes they need to make to get to the right outcomes.

Once people understand rationally (head) and have internalized the behaviours they need to show (heart) then the ways of working become the hands.

Ways of working are not about processes, but how teams and people interact, make decisions and share information across the organization.

Ways of working are then embedded using reinforcement mechanisms such as recognition and incentives.

But it's not about processes, which might need to be changed anyway, it’s about how we manage the processes.

Final comments


Most culture initiatives fail because there is not a clear definition of culture, or why we want to change it. But it also fails when actions are superficial or initiatives are rushed without individuals having time to understand, change and make change happen.

Changing culture takes time.