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Why culture eats strategy

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Culture is often trivialized as a secondary, soft, touchy feely component of business. It’s something HR must deal with – on the side, that is. How wrong is this idea?

The culture of a company is one of the most important drivers of sustainable success. If an organization wants to achieve goals and attract talent, there must be a well-balanced blend of attitudes, action, and beliefs. All are represented in the company culture. The right combination creates pleasure and serious momentum. The wrong combination leads to pain and miserable stagnation.

The ingredients of a strong culture

A culture flourishes because of a distinct set of values and norms. These values and norms are derived from the mission and vision of your company, and they guide it towards the goals you want to achieve. These company goals must be known by everyone so they can actively engage in the culture: they should be clear and measurable. A clear mission and vision, grounding shared values and norms, will stimulate widely supported beliefs, an empowered company attitude, and actions that reflect this strength. All these things together make up a company’s culture.

Significant benefits of a strong culture

If all the ingredients are well matched, the benefits of a strong culture will be revealed.

  • Motivation and spirit
    A strong culture ensures higher employee motivation, loyalty, and satisfaction.
  • Connection 
    A strong culture develops team play and interconnnectedness among the company’s various departments and divisions.
  • Cohesion
    A strong culture will create a consistent, cohesive, and stable company.

Maintainance of culture

A vibrant culture provides a cooperative and collaborative environment which allows a brand to thrive. Your brand is your single most important asset, consistently distinguishing you over time. Therefore, the company culture needs to be nurtured by all employees so that it evolves and is invigorated as extensively as possible. The maintainance of culture must be guaranteed by the company’s organization.

Good leadership to keep culture vibrant

Building a strong culture involves hard work and true commitment. It is fueled and inspired by good leadership. Engaged leaders care about the company’s role in the world and are passionately engaged in promoting this. They are great communicators and motivators. They can create an environment in which culture plays a big and significant role. It’s one thing to have beliefs and values spelled out in principle in the conference room, but it’s another thing to have genuine and memorable beliefs that give direction and that are alive and demonstrated in practice throughout the organization on a daily basis.

Culture must be measured

It’s important that departments and individuals are motivated and measured based on how they reflect the company’s values. Also, if you want a value-driven culture, you can use these values as a filter when hiring new people. If you want your company to embody the culture, you must empower people and ensure every department understands what’s expected.

Responsibility and accountability

Strong cultures empower their people, recognize their talents and give them a very clear role so they know what their responsibilities are and the tasks they’re accountable for. It’s amazing how basic this is but how much the principle seems absent in many businesses.

Working cross border and in multi-cultural teams

It is not a new phenomenon for companies to struggle with the consequences of culture brought about by working cross border and in multi-cultural teams. However leaving this cultural diversity alone can lead to frustration, miscommunication and mistrust between individuals and/or within any international organization. It is an undisputed fact that how people communicate and organizations operate is very much ‘culture bound’.

Individuals need to recognise and accept different modes of working together in teams and be open to the challenge of finding the right approach that motivates people in different cultures, gets their buy-in and leads to results.

This article was previously published by Schoutehn & Nelissen on 10-08-2017

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