Integrating Culture With Your Strategy
by Maria J. Coolican and Jeannette L. Jackson
Culture is one of the most powerful – and most often neglected – elements of the profit equation. There are few other aspects of your business that have the inherent capacity to increase employee productivity, streamline your work processes, and grow revenues in ways that are as powerful and predictable as your corporate culture.
Corporate culture is simple: it’s the way we work together, the ways in which our organizational structures support business strategy, and the ways we attract and retain excellent employees and customers. Basically, corporate culture provides the frame-work to implement and operationalize your strategy.
But how do you work with your own business culture to maximize your profits and to realize your strategy? The answer begins with analyzing just what type of corporate culture you want to have. For example, many companies have a strategic objective to obtain – and then retain – a certain percentage of market share. If you have a strategic goal similar to this, how do you structure the work that your employees do in order to realize that goal? Are your employees free to offer their ideas and experiences, so that you reap the benefit of as many sources of new and creative ideas as possible? Do you encourage free and open discussion, and do you try to allow this to happen outside of the normal work day? We often find that while many companies say they encourage new and innovative ideas from their employees, few actually build this process into their work day. Some of our clients, in seeking to link their culture to their strategy in this area, have developed both formal and informal processes that encourage employees to offer their ideas in safe and open environments, and have built in a reward process to honor those ideas that are adopted or implemented by the company.
Another example of corporate culture is how you deal with the idea of change. Any good strategic plan has built into it a capacity for dealing with changes in product and market. Does your corporate culture reflect this strategic element? This is one of the most critical areas of corporate culture, and one which many companies seriously neglect. The secret here is to make sure that you have formal and established processes by which you can measure the extent to which you are staying ahead of the change curve. For example, if your company manufactures a product that must change with certain advances in technology it is critical that your employees have access to and discussions about that market. An educated work force is as critical as an educated CEO; unfortunately, most companies spend their time and money on educating their top management, and rely on random “trickle-downs” when it comes to the continuing education of their work force. Staying informed about critical market change requires discipline and planning, and must be a goal not only of senior management but of the employees involved as well.
Finally, perhaps the most obvious and important element of your corporate culture is your leadership. There is no single factor more important in the success of your company than your ability to steer your organization and your employees into the increasingly complex marketplace of tomorrow. Corporate culture is all about how you do that. Do you communicate your strategy clearly and often? Do you help your employees learn from their mistakes as well as their successes? Do you take the time to celebrate accomplishments? Can your employees depend on you for consistent and predictable behavior? Do you model the very behaviors and actions that you expect in your employees? While there may be no secret to effective leadership, there is also no substitute for it. An effective corporate culture that is designed to increase revenues depends on consistent and highly visible leadership.
The fast-paced market of today demands that you deal with change, opportunity, and uncertainty. By creating and nurturing a clear and consistent corporate culture you will not only increase your ability to realize your strategic objectives, but you will increase revenues while simultaneously building a company where people want to work, want to produce – and want to stay.
Integrating Culture With Your Strategy