Does culture really eat strategy for breakfast?

08 July, 2019 Share socially

What does culture and strategy really mean?

When I think about the last 20 years in brand consulting, every organisation had its corporate values, corporate values and brand attributes were kept quite separate and distinct, and consequently silos developed. We’re now at a place where things are much more systemic – to the point of ‘culture as a strategy’ for your brand and your business.

Now if you reflect on the values of today’s organisations and the ways in which they are articulated in some of the more successful ones, its very culture is very much the strategy for the organisation in terms of the ways in which they enable their people to do fulfil work. Over time, culture and strategy have become much more closely aligned – organisations struggle is when there is a gap between the two.

When an organisation is looking to undergo transformation, what are the challenges in terms of culture?

At FutureBrand, we have the advantage of having looked inside lots of organisations of all shapes and sizes.

The essential question is often one of how you get an entire organisation to understand – from a cultural perspective – how they might deliver for the customer, especially when for some companies the customer might feel a long way away? There are some valuable studies in the Harvard Business Review and elsewhere on not conducting employee engagement with front office employees as they already ‘get it’. In fact, you risk simply frustrating them more. On the contrary, you need to focus on middle and back office team members to help them understand where they fit into the customer process.

A further question is how you might break down very large organisations into more manageable sizes? One solution is ‘pivotal populations’. You might have 100,000 employees in an organisation like a large retail chain, consequently it can be very difficult to engage with the sheer volume of that many people. But as soon as you realise that a 'pivotal population' is the store manager – and if you have a great store manager, so too have you have a great store, great customer experience, great employee experience – well that’s a much smaller population you can reach with relative ease. This is true within many organisations, you just need to find and engage those pivotal populations.

Does culture really eat strategy for breakfast?

How do you build trust between teams?

Language is an incredibly powerful thing – both in terms of the words that you use and the kinds of responses they evoke.

The power of language to help transform or affect an organisation is significant. But so many organisations have unfortunately become so ‘corporatised’ in their use of language as to render much of their communication meaningless. Used effectively, language can be a powerful thing and build shared understanding – without it, different departments may as well be speaking different languages.

Ultimately, I’ve learned you can’t change people, but you can change the environment and influence behaviour so they respond differently and more positively – that might be shared KPIs, thoughtful office design, or new people with new skills and perspectives. As part of any digital transformation, technology is designed to enable people, people are not ‘going away’ and so inevitably we will always need to explore how to work with others more productively as organisations continue to evolve, transform and grow.

Watch the full discussion here:

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