Every organization on the planet has a culture. In some, the leaders pay close attention to every aspect of their culture, from hiring to terminations. In others, they think that culture is a job for HR. The later mindset can often, and quickly, turn to be like a parasitic virus in a laboratory petri dish.
How then, can an organization build a culture that supports how the organization strategically positions itself against competition?
As a business strategist that uses culture as a foundation for successful strategy execution, I have discovered that there are four areas that a business can choose to focus on. Successful organizations pick only one of the following areas to focus on while, at the same time, making sure they are solid in the other three areas. The four potential strategic distinctive excellences available to choose from are:
Now, this is when great debates rage with business leaders that I advise. They will all say that they need to be ‘great’ at two, three or all four. To which I reply: “In that case, you will have a schizophrenic culture because your team cannot be all things to all people and your greatness needs to be built around what your team can actually be great at.”
Let’s put strategy aside for a moment.
Let’s look at how you view your current corporate culture (assuming it is not a nasty collection of toxicity, back-channel in-fighting with high employee churn, poor performance and customer dissatisfaction).
From the descriptions below, pick one that best describes what kind of culture you have:
Environments are inventive and open minded where people spur new ideas and explore ideas.
The atmosphere is outcome oriented and merit-based where people aspire to achieve top performance. Employees are united by a drive for capability and success.
Environments are methodical places where people play by the rules. Employees are united by cooperation. Leaders emphasize shared procedures and time-honored customs.
The organization’s people are warm, collaborative and welcoming where team members support each other. Leaders emphasize teamwork and positive relationships.
If you choose description number one above, your culture is best suited to be strategically positioned for Innovation.
Number Two? You are perfectly built for Efficiency.
Three? Quality is your sweet spot.
And number four lends itself to a business of Customer Intimacy, serving customers better than your competitors building strong relationships with customers.
If you have a combination of some or all the above, then your culture is most likely dysfunctional. With silos between departments led by leaders that have their own personal interests as their decision-making guide.
Start with your culture. If it is screwed up, fix it by designing your ideal culture populated with people that share the same values and purpose. If you have a culture that you are proud of, use the natural characteristics of your culture to drive your strategic positioning.
Robert Murray is a Vancouver, BC based Business Strategy Consultant, #1 Best Selling Author, International Keynote Speaker, and TEC Top Speaker of the Year for 2018. For further advice, insight and inspiration on how to unlock your inner leader, follow Robert on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
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