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
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