Strategy: Ignore Culture at Your Peril

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It’s December – not only is it peak Christmas shopping time for some (I am completely unprepared!), it’s also when leaders are formalising their strategic planning for 2016 and beyond.

Organisations are thinking about strategic change; whether this is incremental or a larger scale transformational change.

If your organisation needs to make some difficult choices for the year ahead you should ensure close attention is paid to culture.

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ – Peter Drucker

We regularly review our corporate, regional and departmental strategies, but how many of us also take this time to review our culture and it’s alignment with strategy?

Perhaps it’s because the perceived ‘emotional’ side of culture seems at odds with the more ‘rational’ side of strategic planning.

Culture impacts the way employees react and behave to any change in strategy, so ignore it at your peril!

What is Culture?

According to Segal-Horn and Faulkner, in their book Understanding Global Strategy, culture includes:

‘knowledge, values, preferences, habits, customs, practices and behaviour’

Which…

‘have the power to shape attitudes and behaviour’ within organisations.

Culture can be created, written down and driven formally by an organisation; the values may be developed collaboratively with employees, communicated by HR or the leadership team and ‘lived’ daily within the workplace.

However, there are also assumptions made by employees and ways of working that have developed over time. How many times do we hear it’s the way we work around here…?!

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Working with Culture to Facilitate Change

Creating a Forcefield analysis is an ideal way to ‘view the forces at work in an organisation that act to prevent or facilitate change’ (Johnson, G et al, Exploring Strategy).

Forcefield Analysis.png

This kind of analysis requires us to ask ourselves tough questions on what can block (resisting forces) or aid (pushing forces) change when creating a strategy.

Culture can be a fundamental catalyst for change and can be used as a vision for what change would look like once the strategy is implemented. However, it can also be a barrier.

A forcefield analysis can shine a light on the potential for resistence to a change in strategy. This in turn can lead to initiatives that are introduced in-line with the new strategy to:

  • Build trust
  • Break down any negative power structures within the organisation
  • Address information concerns and ‘fears’
  • Improve and increase lines of communication between management and employees

Barriers to strategic success must not be ignored and culture is a crucial factor that can make or break new policies.

I think of the aspects of culture like waves in the sea – work against it and you will struggle, take it into account and you can use them to your strategic advantage.

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  • Comments (2)
  1. Excellent Article! Very well written!

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