Five Essential Building Blocks of Your Organisation's Story

Tomorrow's successful leader is someone who can slalom through the white water of unanticipated disruption and culture change. To that end, little is more important as a navigation aid than the organisation's story. That story has five essential building blocks:

1) Where are we headed?
2) What do we believe in?
3) What makes us special?
4) What is our brand promise?
5) How do we make a difference in people's lives?

Story is culture and culture is story. Yesterday, strategy informed culture. Moving forward, culture enables strategy. If you're not measuring culture … you're not managing it.

Insights from "Speed of Learning: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage".

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".

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".

Healthcare Business Outlook, Workplace, Culture and Leadership Trends
bedfordgroup.com

In the summer of 2020, Bedford Group Transearch, the leader in executive healthcare talent solutions, surveyed companies to gain perspective regarding their business outlook, workplace insights, culture and leadership trends, emerging from the Covid crisis. Polling executives from North America Pharmaceutical, Biotech, Medical Device/Technology and Healthcare Services, the following provides a summary of key results.

Read "Healthcare Business Outlook, Workplace, Culture and Leadership Trends" leadership insights