As it appeared in the Daily Nation on February 18th 2020
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
Renowned Management Guru Peter Drucker in his wisdom was the first person to have pointed out that, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”. Many business leaders agree that when left unattended, culture has the ability to grab and eat strategy not only for breakfast but also for lunch and dinner. This is because organizational culture plays a crucial role in strategic success and failure. Unfortunately, many organizations leave their culture unattended during the strategy process. It seems that business leaders put in extra effort to identify goals such as annual revenues and possible ways of achieving them but little effort towards creating a healthy culture. Culture describes the sum-total of the business ethos. It is a complex whole that defines the way of life in any organization. A healthy culture steers strategic efforts.
A healthy culture is one that drives the desired results in a fitting manner. Such a culture is characterized by strong-shared values and a belief system that supports good behaviours. Employees are happier when the organizational culture is healthy. An unhealthy culture is one that lacks a strong foundation and as a result, employees’ behaviours and attitudes display negativity and goals are not met. In such a culture, resisting strategic change is commonplace as people seek to retain the status quo. This in turn makes the change process associated with strategy execution challenging. Without an enabling culture, it becomes very difficult to implement strategy, attain desired milestones and meet the set objectives.
During the lifespan of an organization, it is critical for the leaders to be intentional about the culture they want to develop. Most business leaders do not seem to care enough about the effects of culture on strategic success. Many organizations rarely conduct a culture audit and the myopic view of culture by leaders makes culture change efforts difficult. It is important for every business leader to understand why the staff behave the way they behave. It is for this reason that smart companies do not leave their culture to chance. Such companies are intentional about defining their value system and living according to them. They go further to positively influence the beliefs and to create healthy traditions that support the value system. Ultimately, smart companies ensure that the organizational culture and the chosen strategic direction are fully aligned.
Culture sets organizations apart making every organization unique. Strategy helps organizations to prepare well for their desired future. When culture and strategy are in tandem, it makes it easier for organizations to achieve strategic success and survive into the future. Every business leader must therefore be cautious about the kind of culture they have created. If execution is a major challenge, consider fixing the culture first and creating a culture where people have a bias for action. Fixing the culture or creating the desired culture is a leadership responsibility. Business leaders therefore need to be more interested in what is considered a way of life in an organization. Is action a way of life? Is collaboration a way of life? Is strategy failing? Is your good strategy being eaten by the poor culture? If your ability to execute strategy is deteriorating, focus more on the culture!
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy