Building a Strong Organisational Culture: The Competitive Imperative

August 17, 2023

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, senior leaders face numerous challenges in ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of their organisations. One critical aspect that senior leaders must prioritise is the development and nurturing of a strong organisational culture. Culture, far from being an abstract or vague concept, holds immense power and significance within a company. It speaks to people, shapes behaviours, and ultimately becomes a competitive imperative rather than a mere advantage.

Understanding the Essence of Culture

Culture represents the collective habits, values, norms, ethos, organisation, and identity of a community working together towards a common purpose. It distinguishes one tribe from another. Culture goes beyond external markers and externalised behaviours. It permeates the fabric of an organisation, fertilising the closed mind and influencing the thoughts, attitudes, and actions of individuals. A strong culture describes a community built on inclusion, shared values, and respect for individual differences.

The power of culture lies in its ability to shape behaviours, guide decision-making, and create a sense of identity and belonging. A strong culture aligns individuals towards a common purpose, fostering cooperation, consensus, and collaboration. On the other hand, organisations with internal tribes at war with each other provide an advantage to their competition. Therefore, senior leaders must recognise and embrace the need for a vibrant culture that encourages trust, sharing, and collaboration, both within the organisation and with external stakeholders.

Embracing Diversity

To thrive in a rapidly changing environment, organisations must embrace diversity and inclusivity. The law of requisite variety states that a system needs at least as much internal variety as exists in its external environment to sustain itself. In the context of organisational culture, this means that senior leaders must foster a culture that embraces diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and ideas.

If an organisation predominantly consists of individuals who look and sound the same, it is ill-equipped to navigate a world where innovation and creativity are essential for success. A culture that encourages a wide range of voices and ideas is better prepared to adapt to emerging challenges, seize new opportunities, and stay ahead of the competition.

The Power of Culture

Culture is often compared to the water in a goldfish bowl — ubiquitous yet invisible. It sustains life and enables individuals to seamlessly pick up where they left off each day, supporting continuity and coherence. However, the intangible nature of culture does not diminish its impact; rather, it underscores its significance.

Senior leaders must be mindful of their organisation’s culture, recognising that it shapes the behaviours and outcomes within the company. By deliberately cultivating and nurturing a strong culture, leaders can create an environment where individuals are inspired to excel, collaborate, and innovate. Culture becomes a container for diversity, allowing the organisation to harness the full potential of its workforce and thrive in an ever-evolving landscape.

Embracing Culture as a Strategic Imperative

Senior leaders play a pivotal role in shaping and sustaining a strong organisational culture. By understanding the essence of culture, recognising its impact on behaviours and outcomes, and embracing diversity as a competitive advantage, leaders can foster a vibrant and inclusive culture that propels their organisations towards success. Culture is not an abstract concept or a temporary endeavour — it is the lifeblood of an organisation, the essence of its identity, and the foundation for sustained growth and achievement. Embrace the power of culture and lead your organisation to new heights.


This article explores themes and concepts from content by John O. Burdett.

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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