Do You Spend As Much Quality Time On Culture As You Do On Strategy?

Traditional business school thinking is that strategy drives culture. Figure out the strategy and then make the culture fit. In a steady state world, that model makes perfect sense. Except we don't live in a safe, predictable environment. In a world of uncertainty the only thing that is predictable is that your strategy will be "subject to correction". Long after the strategy has been shredded, what will endure is the culture. The new reality - culture enables strategy.

It's become popular to use the expression "culture eats strategy for breakfast." It's colourful, catchy, engaging, provocative … and wrong! We need both strategy and culture. The conundrum with a good metaphor is that logic doesn't unseat it. We need a better metaphor.

Consider...

"Strategy is a bicycle, culture is a bus."

It's a mistake of epic proportions to assume the bicycle can pull the bus. Difficult when the road is flat; impossible on a steep incline. Know also that if the bicycle has to swerve - if, for example, a black swan runs into the road (a black swan event describes unpredictable, sweeping and highly disruptive change, e.g., the 2008 financial meltdown) - the bus will just keep on going .. and going. And in the collision that follows … no prize for knowing the winner!

We need to get strategy on the bus … recognising that culture has primacy at the back of the bus! What does that mean in practical terms? The next time your team meets to discuss strategy make sure that culture is front and centre. In an uncertain and unpredictable world, to be a successful leader is to breathe life into the culture every single day. The problem? Intent and intestinal fortitude aren't always aligned. What's important gets in the way of what is essential. Early resolve is not the same as a successful outcome.

The evidence from our own research, and that of others, is that only 20% of organisations are managing their culture. The Culture Imperative: If you are not managing your culture someone else is! The union; a dominant customer; a predatory supplier; the local press; government regulators; and/or a function or sub-business that, because of past success, have undue influence and will be pleased to move into the vacuum.

Insights from "The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Does Your Team Regularly Have A Vibrant Culture Conversation?

Culture is the often overlooked, all-pervasive, enterprise-wide, organisational DNA that dictates whether your strategy lands or if your brand sustains. It's "a way to be" shaped by the past but continuously honed by the emerging business, social, economic, political and customer context. Culture is managed from the outside-in but demands leadership from the inside-out. The four essential, supporting pillars of culture are:

  1. Mission (why do we do what we do?)
  2. Diversity (diversity fuels innovation)
  3. Brand (why buy from us?)
  4. Speed (Focus - Anticipation - Simplicity - Technology)

The four pillars act like the foundation of a house. If they are poorly constructed nothing will stand for very long. Those four pillars are braced by the organisation's values. The organisation's values must hold meaning for all of the stakeholders, especially the customer.

Bringing the intended culture to life means also working on:

  • Structure;
  • Core processes;
  • The nature and degree of freedom to act (how decisions get made and who makes them); and
  • How people learn (learning how to learn, speed of learning)

All of the elements described come together to shape the organisation's story. Culture is story and story is culture. When top talent is evermore difficult to find and attract, a winning story is essential. Talent isn't attracted to your balance sheet; they want to join your firm because they love your story. And they stay, not because they swoon over your strategy but, because they are a happy captive of your culture.

Insights from "The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

The Culture Conversation - 3. Why Culture Now?

The following is an edited transcript of part 3 of "The Culture Conversation" webinar by John Burdett. Read Part 2 of The Culture Conversation.

Organisations will obviously address the issue of speed through technology. And there is a whole lot of new technology coming out and emerging. In fact, if you remember 4 or 5 years ago, the newspapers and the business magazines were full of the notion that by now, by 2020, whole swathes of manufacturing and service jobs would be replaced by digitalised platforms … artificial intelligence, cobots, robots, etc.

The greatest challenge isn't access to technology, it's implementation. There is lots of technology, it's implementing that has become the problem. And what we need to do, what we are trying to do today in many instances is we are trying to force fit 21st century technology into a 20th century organisation. As a metaphor, in terms of organisation design, it is like trying to attach a rocket to a bicycle.

The culture challenge … why culture now? We literally have to 'rewire', at least in people's minds, the organisation to take advantage of emerging technology. We need to think entirely differently about organisation design.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

The Culture Conversation
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TRANSEARCH International held "The Culture Conversation" webinar on the 8th July 2020.

Culture isn't an end in itself. It is a container for diversity. It both frames and supports the organisation's value proposition. It is the bedrock of a great brand. It is 'the engine' that drives change. It's what separates a great company from the rest of the pack. The greater the change, the more an organisation's culture has to reflect the new reality. Simply put, organisation culture and the leadership challenge implied, is more relevant at this moment than ever.

Leading the webinar was John O. Burdett, who has worked in over 40 countries as an executive and as a consultant for businesses that are household names. He has worked on and continues to work on leadership development and organization culture for some of the world's largest corporations.

For more information please visit www.transearch.com or contact your local TRANSEARCH Consultant.

Read "The Culture Conversation" leadership insights