Creating Tomorrow’s Culture Today

January 6, 2023

by John O. Burdett

Tomorrow will be different. In an uncertain world, culture enables the strategy. If you’re not managing your culture … someone else is.

Tomorrow will be different. It’s no longer the case that strategy drives culture. In an uncertain world, culture enables the strategy; strategy being a series of strategic scenarios brought to life, as the business environment dictates, by a strong and agile culture. Develop the strategy and then build the “right culture” to support the strategy.

We need both strategy and culture, but culture has primacy. People are loyal to the culture, not the strategy. If strategy and culture collide, culture wins … always!

“Managing culture” is about creating tomorrow’s organisation, today. “Management” means measurement. Not much happens, of course, without leadership. Leaders who move the culture in a new direction do so because they know how to inspire. The word “inspire” comes from the Latin ‘spirare’ (to breathe life into). Successful leaders breathe life into culture … every single day.

Culture is built on four critical pillars:

Bracing those supporting pillars are the organisation’s values. Values aren’t rules – they give people permission to act.

Moving the culture in a new direction means working on both the cultural drivers (strategy, what you measure and reward, the talent management system, technology) and the cultural anchors (mindset, metaphor, language, symbolism, story, ritual, myths). Bringing the culture to life involves structure, process, candour and pushing decision-making closer to the customer.

Meanwhile, the white space on the organisation chart isn’t a vacuum; it’s full of noise. If you don’t influence that “noise” in a meaningful way … if you don’t manage the informal organisation … it will manage you.

Critical Tools: The ability to measure the culture you have (roots) and the culture you need (wings).

Coaching Imperative: If you’re not managing your culture … someone else is (e.g., suppliers, key customers, a militant union, disenfranchised middle managers, an aggressive investment group).

This article is an extract from “Coaching the CEO“, © Orxestra® Inc.

John O. Burdett is founder of Orxestra® Inc. He has extensive international experience as a senior executive. As a consultant he has worked in more than 40 countries for organisations that are household names. John has worked on organisation culture for some of the world's largest organisations. His ongoing partnership with TRANSEARCH International means that his thought leading intellectual property, in any one year, supports talent management in many hundreds of organisations around the world. Get in touch with John O. Burdett »

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