Why Strategy often gets lost in Company Culture
When a business executive team sets its eyes in a new direction, with a vision on a new business strategy, how often do they look to see how strong their culture is to execute and succeed with their business plans?
Peter Drucker put it eloquently when he talked about how “culture eats strategy for breakfast every time”. What could he mean by this? Essentially, your strategy will only be as good as the level of training and the behaviours operating inside your organisation as you seek to enact the change or get the team behind the strategy.
As a coach, I have seen companies with great strategies take time to get their strategy off the ground, and once they began to work and pay attention to getting the internal behaviours and actions right, higher quality results begin to manifest. A wise business manager once said to me, “it take a totally different set of behaviours to take a company from $20 to $60 million.” So what does a management team need to be aware of if they are developing a key business strategy and seeking to grow their business or change direction. Three things; awareness of the existing behaviour and culture, a change in behaviour and a willingness to ask better questions of its people.
Behaviour is what makes up a Culture
Culture in a company is really the collective behaviours, beliefs and values operating within a group of people. They can be healthy and productive or quite the opposite. When there is pull and push actions going in with a team, you know it is time to start asking what is really going on. Looking at what shows up in organisations, there will always be a scale of behaviours that we can deem constructive or counter-productive. People may not always be aware of what exactly is going on. Here are a few aspects to think about:
Counter-productive behaviours come from viewing the world in a certain way. It can often be noticed in a levels of inflexibility, seeing the world through the ‘self’ point of view, working from all or nothing thinking, staying stuck in the detail rather than seeing the big picture, discounting ideas and people’s contributions, and following what you have always done instead of trying some new options. Ask the question, “are we doing any of these behaviours that will stop us from making this strategy a reality?”
Constructive, quality behaviours come from a high level of awareness in the team on the right behaviours that will get the results, behavioural flexibility, seeing options and future possibilities, multiple view points, focussing on the bigger picture and the detail equally, while considering all ideas and contributions offered within a group or team. Ask the question “is our thinking expansive and high-level enough to deliver the strategy we are looking for?” These are all styles of thinking and perception. Creating a culture of behavioural awareness can be that difference that makes all the difference to developing a healthy, productive culture.
Culture has a structure, find out how it is built
What makes up the culture is a collection of individual behaviours, thinking styles and frames of mind; it is important to explore what collective values and beliefs are operating in your company and how they are aligned with the culture needed to make the strategy a success. When looking to change elements of the existing culture, it is important to find a structure that allows you to stand back and examine it in a way that takes the personal elements out of it.
With the companies I have worked with, we work systematically in looking at the culture through different filters. We ask penetrating questions about how the individuals are thinking about the strategy, their team and their customers and how healthy and productive they are. Key to this is to create a model of what the right culture would look like; then it’s about getting the behaviours to support it and the mind-set to execute the strategy. Critical to this is identifying key performance indicators that you can measure and the tangible behaviours needed to make things happen. A key question to ask is, “how can we benchmark and map tangible behaviours that will give us the results we want?” An example is operating from solutions-mind set, where a problem is articulated with a potential solution, rather than just honing in on why the problem is a problem. Then it’s about tracking who and what behaviours contributed to getting to the solution that’s working.
Coach Your Organisation and Ask Quality Questions
The quality of your questions will determine how well you can adapt the culture and make the strategy come to fruition. Take a hard look at your culture and ask some key questions around the impact of how people think and behave and how it plays itself out in the organisation. Everything we do and think has some effect; because as we think, we then give meaning to our experience and then we take action or no action.
If we have productive, healthy and constructive ways of thinking about our organisations where the common good of others is considered, we will make progress. When we ask questions of ourselves and others without judgement, we open the doorway to higher insight and to that higher performance we are looking for to get the strategy working. The questioning mind-set is probably the most powerful mind-set you can bring to an organisation to explore the culture, its facets and its impact on your business strategy. Here are some questions to ask to take a look at your culture.
- What are we not seeing in our culture that is taking from our business success?
- What part are we playing, as individuals, that is creating the collective culture?
- What won’t happen if we don’t change and let go of the old ways of doing things?
- Is what we are doing working for our clients, our business and our people?
- Is our culture keeping up with the pace of change?
- Is our culture adaptable enough to the demands of our business?
As you think about your organisation, are you asking enough of the right questions to make your business strategy successful? Bring the power of coaching to your team and see what happens. A final closing question for you, what is your existing culture costing your business?
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