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Culture is the key to Growth and Development

Leg­endary man­age­ment and not for prof­it con­sul­tant Peter Druck­er quipped that “Cul­ture eats strat­e­gy for lunch”. Druck­er didn’t mean that strat­e­gy was unim­por­tant. What he under­stood was that a plan, even the most ele­gant was real­ly com­pro­mised if there was no effec­tive cul­ture to imple­ment it. He recog­nised that an empow­er­ing cul­ture was the surest route to sus­tain­able organ­i­sa­tion­al health and suc­cess.

So, to be clear what is meant by cul­ture any­way?

Cul­ture is the car­ri­er of mean­ing. It is the sum of val­ues and the inter­nal­ly agreed ‘ways of doing things’ which serve as ‘glue’ to inte­grate the organ­i­sa­tion. It lies out­side coer­cive, direc­tive or imposed pol­i­cy. Cul­tures effec­tive­ness is the result of a set of shared assump­tions that guide behav­iours.

A long-term cul­ture that sets the scene for growth and devel­op­ment is defined by trust, cel­e­brates inno­va­tion and ini­tia­tive, dri­ves out fear, bestows dig­ni­ty. A cul­ture where suc­cess is cel­e­brat­ed, and fail­ures hon­est­ly exam­ined. One that hon­ours his­to­ry, recounts impor­tant his­to­ry and sto­ries,  and expects account­abil­i­ty and respon­si­bil­i­ty. In a strong and vibrant cul­ture, these val­ues are evi­dent, tan­gi­ble and lived.

Why is cul­ture foun­da­tion­al to strat­e­gy?

  • It is inter­nalised and not dic­tat­ed.
  • A cul­ture can trans­form employ­ees into advo­cates (or crit­ics)
  • A strong organ­i­sa­tion­al cul­ture helps you keep your best peo­ple
  • A dynam­ic cul­ture trans­forms staff into a team
  • Cul­ture impacts on per­for­mance and employ­ee well­be­ing. It is com­mon sense that there will be less absen­teeism
  • A well-devel­oped cul­ture brings a strik­ing­ly increased open­ness to change and the desire of employ­ees to make changes work.
  • As the cul­ture devel­ops and peo­ple take full respon­si­bil­i­ty for what hap­pens in their work areas, prob­lems are solved where they hap­pen and by those affect­ed. This frees man­age­ment from the old polic­ing and mon­i­tor­ing style of lead­er­ship.
  • Less con­flict, high­er reten­tion, greater inno­va­tion and com­mit­ment to strate­gic goals means bet­ter finan­cial out­comes.

A pos­i­tive cul­ture is reflect­ed and led by lead­er­ship.  It is the lead­er­ship that must  ‘walk the talk’ and imple­ment actions and pol­i­cy that enhance a pos­i­tive cul­ture. Build­ing a cul­ture takes longer than writ­ing a strate­gic plan. It is an ongo­ing atten­tive process.  With­out a pos­i­tive cul­ture, the imple­men­ta­tion and suc­cess of any Strate­gic Plan is com­pro­mised or even doubt­ful. Cul­ture is the key to Growth and Devel­op­ment

Steve Tollestrup

Director at Ploughshare
Ploughshare's Director has worked in community development, local government and corporate management for over thirty years both in New Zealand and throughout the developing world. He brings a wealth of expertise in fundraising, governance, strategic planning, change management, leadership development and coaching, advocacy and public communication.
Steve Tollestrup

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