Clear Strategy Builds a Better Culture

World-renowned management consultant Peter Drucker once said: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And former CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kallaher summed up the importance of company culture with: “Competitors can buy tangible assets, but they can’t buy culture.” Having a good culture in place is just as important as a good strategy – you can have a great strategy, but if your culture is not up to scratch your businesses will face troubles.

But what exactly is culture? I am not going to tell you what your culture should be, but I can suggest how you can best define it by the following four cultural pillars. A strong corporate culture must be Shared, Pervasive, Endurable, and Implicit.

First of all, culture must be shared – it has to be a group mentality, a phenomenon. It must also be pervasive. If it isn’t something that employees, clients and prospects can quickly adopt, it’s not pervasive. People are drawn to organizations with characteristics similar to their own, so your culture must also be endurable. And, your company culture must be implicit. Think of it as a type of silent language that everyone speaks. More than simply attracting the best talent and enjoying time with colleagues, a good culture lays the foundation for businesses and workers to adapt their mindsets. This results in more productive and successful employees with better attitudes.

I’ve long subscribed to the idea that there are eight very distinct cultural styles that an organization can follow. While companies can be a blend of cultures, most tend to orientate towards one distinct style. Despite their differences, the one thing that remains the same with each style is that culture is most strong when leaders are the main driving force behind them all. In a study by Harvard Business Review, business leaders were asked to rank the following culture styles from one to eight for their individual organizations:

1. Caring

This is where employees are united by loyalty. Culture-focused leaders emphasize sincerity, teamwork and positive relationships. With this style, the focus is on mutual trust. This is also one of the most prevalent styles, with 63% of organizations ranking themselves as falling into this category first.

2. Purpose

Employees are united by a focus on global communities. Leaders who promote this style of culture encourage shared ideas and the contribution to a greater cause. The same study found that only 9% of businesses class themselves as emphasizing purpose over any other style.

3. Learning

Curiosity unites employees. Leaders who emphasize innovation, knowledge and adventure are rare, with only 7% of companies considering themselves a learning-focused culture above the other styles.

4. Enjoyment

Just 2% of companies have a culture of enjoyment as their strongest characteristic. This type of organisation is led through fun and excitement. Employees are united by playfulness and stimulation, and leaders support spontaneity and a sense of humour.

5. Results

Unsurprisingly, a results-focused culture, which is founded on achievement and winning, was ranked the highest in the HBR study. Over three-quarters (89%) considered their company to fall into this category over any other. Employees are united by a drive for success and leaders give emphasis to goal accomplishment.

6. Authority

This cultural style is defined by strength, decisiveness and boldness and 4% of leaders rank this style highest. Leaders focus on confidence and dominance with employees being united by strong control.

7. Safety

A tendency and fondness to plan and prepare is key to this culture, with 8% of companies ranking their company culture in the safety bracket first. Employees are united by a desire to feel protected and anticipate change; leaders emphasize being realistic and planning ahead.

8. Order

15% of organizational cultures can be classified as having order-focused cultures at their core. These companies are founded on respect and structure. Employees are united by cooperation and leaders support shared procedures and time-honoured customs.

While a culture usually develops organically and intuitively, company leaders can aspire to strengthen certain attributes and moderate others. This is something I work on every day with my team. With so much of this culture – both positive and negative – coming from above, leaders must ask themselves “what culture do I want for my company?”

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