When will business strategy and corporate culture be ready for a date?
Peter Ducker's statement "culture eats strategy for breakfast" is widely discussed and acknowledged. No matter how strong and clear the strategy an organization develops, if the corporate culture is not aligned with it, failure is programmed. I have witnessed those scenarios many times, but instead of explaining the obvious one more time, how about envisioning the future in which "culture takes strategy for dinner"?
Before moving over to the dinner table, it’s important to introduce the host. In simple words, corporate culture is a blend of behaviors, norms and beliefs that explain how things are done in an organizational context. In an ideal world, a number of informal rules and values give guidance on how daily work should be approached and they are strongly connected with the corporate vision and business direction. In that model culture will assist realization of business strategy and both will enjoy the time at the dinner table. Sadly, research efforts over the past years delivered a single and undoubtable result across industries and geographies: culture and engagement are the most important issue companies face in business today. In that sense, we are far away from dating and I keep on wondering why.
One of the first projects I participated in as management trainee many years ago was to measure culture and engagement within a bank I worked for. That survey was a well-established, bi-annual process. It was moderated by HR, supported by a large external provider and discussed by the executive team once results were delivered. In all other organizations I worked later, the approach was similar: employees were asked about leadership, vision, performance results, development opportunities and their engagement level every two to three years. Once data was collected, results were studied for a couple of months, discussed outcomes were communicated back to the teams and corrective actions eventually taken – at a point where engagement results arguably were simply outdated.
This is not to blame the model and the methodology I have grown with. I just believe that in the digital era, culture and engagement work can and should be done differently. Dynamic business environments today request fast, efficient and user friendly tools that provide reliable data in a timely manner. Those tools enable businesses to keep their fingers on employees’ engagement pulses regularly and spot any negative trend early enough to deal with it proactively. Every responsible person goes for blood testing and health check-ups regularly. Then, there is no reason for leaders to neglect the health of their organizations either.
Frequent and regular engagement checkups are a strong signal of interest in the opinion of the workforce and will affect the employee engagement by itself. Our employees are smart, educated and dedicated people that want to be part of a successful team. They are in touch with our customers daily, they see our competitors from a close distance and they get regular feedback from the ecosystem. Establishing a platform for continuous dialogue with our employees will help us develop agile structures and fresh business models, supported by an inclusive culture and engaged, diverse workforce.
Great leaders know that culture is not something that can be fixed. It is the evolution that takes hard work and true commitment. However, the outcome of a strong strategy and the fully aligned culture pays off every effort. Efficient digital tools and lean methodology can be found on many menus and the selection is extensive. Organizations are now left to choose the best meal that will leave neither culture nor strategy hungry – a meal that calls for a next date.