October 17, 2023
In the fast-paced, ever-evolving landscape of business, the role of organisational culture has become increasingly pivotal. Today’s senior leaders recognise that culture is not merely an abstract concept but a potent force that can make or break an organisation. As we delve into the dynamics of culture and its far-reaching impact, it’s imperative to understand that building a robust culture is not a one-time project or an isolated initiative; it’s an ongoing journey that requires constant attention and dedicated leadership. In this article, we will explore how culture shapes an organisation’s destiny, and how leadership techniques can harness the power of culture for sustainable growth and success.
Culture: The Backbone of Organisational Strength
Culture is more than just a collection of values, mission statements, or slogans. It is the lifeblood of an organisation, interwoven into every aspect of its operations, from the way employees interact with one another to the manner in which they engage with customers. Culture is a complex system, and its strength lies in its weakest parts. In essence, if a piece of the cultural puzzle is missing or compromised, the entire system can falter.
A strong culture is not just a nice-to-have; it’s an absolute necessity. It influences not only your employees’ commitment to your brand promise but also their retention, motivation, and dedication to your organisation’s goals. If culture is neglected or allowed to deteriorate, you risk losing your most valuable asset — your people. This is a critical point in today’s era where attracting and retaining top talent is more challenging than ever.
Shifting the Paradigm: Culture Enables Strategy
Conventional wisdom often suggested that culture follows strategy, but the world of business is undergoing rapid transformation, and traditional strategies are consistently under attack. In this new landscape, the emerging dictum is that culture enables strategy. Culture provides the foundation for growth, shapes future performance, and unlocks the potential for different strategic scenarios to unfold.
To maximise the potential of culture, senior leaders must not view it as a standalone project but rather as an ongoing commitment. This commitment involves changing the patterns of play, implementing effective measurement systems, driving the culture conversation, and rallying middle managers around the cause. It also demands inspirational leadership that can take people to places they otherwise wouldn’t go. Remember, even if you have all the building blocks of a strong culture in place, if your leadership lacks the ability to inspire and guide, your culture will remain stagnant and underutilised.
Culture Management: Taking the Helm
It’s critical for senior leaders to take a proactive role in managing their organisation’s culture. Research indicates that a mere 20% of organisations effectively manage their culture. The other 80% risk their culture being shaped by forces beyond their control. If those at the helm lack “culture savvy,” the future of the business may fall into the wrong hands. The responsibility for culture management extends to various aspects within the organisation.
- Engaged Workforce: Engaging employees is not just a matter of convenience; it’s the cornerstone of a thriving culture. Leaders must ensure that their workforce is fully committed to the brand promise and the organisation’s goals.
- Leadership and Vision: Leaders should be culture champions, embodying the values and behaviours they expect from their employees. Their role is to inspire, guide, and drive cultural transformation.
- Middle Managers: Disaffected middle managers can be a significant roadblock to culture improvement. Leadership should actively involve middle managers in the culture transformation process and give them the necessary tools to become culture advocates.
- Stakeholder Alignment: Ensure alignment between key stakeholders, such as owners, unions, competitors, suppliers, and customers. Aligning interests with the organisation’s cultural values can prevent friction and promote a harmonious culture.
Driving Culture Leadership: Inside-Out Approach
Culture is not something that can be managed from the outside alone; it requires leadership from the inside out. Senior leaders should provide structure and guidance on how to have the culture conversation. They should become storytellers, using narratives to communicate the essence of the culture and make it more relatable to employees. Additionally, a robust measurement system should be in place to monitor and analyse cultural progress continually.
Culture is the driving force behind organisational success in today’s business environment. It shapes an organisation’s destiny and underpins its performance. To harness the full potential of culture, senior leaders must actively manage it, using leadership techniques to shape it into a powerful, transformative force that propels their organisation forward. Recognise that culture is a dynamic entity, and its continual cultivation is an investment that pays off in the form of a committed and motivated workforce, and ultimately, sustainable growth and success.
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 »