"We want to grow by 100% top line and bottom line in the next five years." This isn’t an unreasonable request from a CEO of a business with huge potential and investment backing. Unfortunately their current organisational culture will not support their aims. Fortunately, they recognise this and have taken action but too many organsiations don’t realise until it’s too late.

The mechanics

Your strategic narrative, including your numbers, strategic enablers and imperatives make clear what the business is going to achieve and deliver in a set period of time.

Your cultural narrative makes clear how your business will feel and act. Your cultural narrative will usually include your purpose, values and vision. This cultural narrative should support the strategic narrative.

Your brand narrative outlines the promise you make to customers and the experience you want them to have of your organisation and its products and services. The brand narrative must align with the strategic and cultural narrative.

The reality is that your employees’ experience will largely define your customers’ experience. Your customers’ experience will always reflect the culture of the organisation.

Where culture kills strategy

Consider the organisation from the introductory paragraph. They know that in order to grow at the rate they want (and their investors require) they must be agile, innovative and diverse.

And they aren’t.

Their values don’t suggest that the people who make up that organisation need to be. The people they recruit are exceptionally good at what they have done over the years and they are recruited with a brief to do more of what they have always done.

With this backdrop, the strategy has little hope of being realised. No matter how hard the Executive Team drives performance it will fall short. Ironically the more they push, cajole and censure the more they will stifle innovation.

Another approach is required.

Culture enables strategy

So often strategy and culture are positioned as opponents in a mythical organisational battle. In truth, they feed into and from each other. Much of the cultural change work that we do comes from a change in strategic direction requiring a change in ways of working, and a reordering of what is important in a business.

This is what culture is. It is the way people ‘be’ around here. The bringing to life of a clear and congruent sense of purpose, a set of shared and connected values coupled with a vision that is compelling and inspires action.

Culture change isn’t easy. It requires commitment and, as our Crossing the Chasm model shows, a significant amount of focus. The alternative though is much more difficult. Strategy without the right people or attitudes to deliver it will never succeed.

Call to action

  • Re-examine your organisastion or department’s strategy
  • Map the current culture against it. Does the culture support or inhibit the delivery of the strategy
  • What would be the single most important thing you could influence to align your culture and strategy?

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To learn more about the our unique approach to culture change email me richard@twentyoneleadership.com