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10 Points How Culture Owns Strategy

Research shows companies using a few specific cultural catalysts — informal emotional approaches to influencing behavior — are significantly more likely to experience long-term change. Of the companies reporting consciously using elements of their culture in Strategy&’s 2018 Global Culture & Change Management Survey, 70 percent said their firms achieved sustainable improvement in organizational pride and emotional commitment. That compares with 35 percent for firms that didn’t use culture as a lever.

Although there is no magic formula, no brilliant algorithm, no numerical equation guaranteeing results, we’ve pulled 10 valuable insights through decades of research and observation at dozens of enterprises, including some of the most successful companies in the world. We guide you towards adopting these 10 Points of Light for your organization to learn, deploy and improve its culture in a sustainable manner increasing the odds of financial and operational success. This list is NOT in any chronological order. When we’re engaged, we show you how to systematically deploy change with your existing hierarchy in place and leverage the informal networks that get work done yielding high-value results with stronger relationships.

“Without results, culture goes no where!”

1. Work with and within your current cultural situations. Deeply embedded cultures cannot be replaced with simple Band-Aid upgrades, or even with major overhaul efforts. It’s an evolution that can take several years. Nor can your culture be adapted to follow Ritz-Carlton ot Disney, swapped out for a new one as though it were a manufacuting component. Your current cultural situation just is what it is — and it contains components that provide natural advantages to companies as well as components that may act as roadblocks.

We’ve never seen a culture that is all bad, or one that is all good. To work with your culture effectively, therefore, you must understand it, recognize which traits are preeminent and consistent, and discern under what types of conditions these traits are likely to be a help or a hindrance.

2. Change behaviors, and mind-sets will follow. It’s a commonly held belief behavioral change follows mental shifts, as surely as night follows day. Thus, why organizations often try to change mind-sets (and ultimately behavior) by communicating values and putting them in POS-style brochures, pictures and banners. Frankly, some of this style is ok, but most of it is useless.

Culture is more a matter of doing than of saying. Trying to change a culture purely through top-down messaging, training and development programs, and identifiable cues seldom changes people’s beliefs or behaviors. In fact, neuroscience research suggests people act their way into believing rather than thinking their way into acting. Changes to key behaviors that are tangible, actionable, repeatable, observable, and measurable are a good place to start.

3. Focus on a critical few behaviors. Focus on “the critical few,” a small number of important behaviors – simple and practical – that would have great impact when put into practice by a significant number of people. Discern a few things people do throughout the company that positively affect business performance — for example, ways of starting meetings or talking with customers ensuring those are aligned with the company’s overall strategy.

4. Deploy your authentic informal leaders. Authority, which is conferred by a formal position, should not be confused with leadership. Leadership is a natural attribute, exercised and displayed informally without regard to title or position in the organizational chart. Informal leaders are frequently overlooked and underused when it comes to driving culture. We identify such leaders through various means and organizational network analysis, which allow companies to construct maps of complex internal social relations. These leaders become powerful allies who influence and impact change thereby accelerating the time to results faster. How? They are “showing by doing.” In fact, we map out your organization and identify potential pipeline of leaders who exhibit different core leadership strengths.

5. Formal leaders are called to lead. Most organizations tend to push off culture into the silo of HR. It’s destined to fail there. The top leader goes first or the initiative is dead before it begins. We don’t even sign on if the top leader doesn’t go first! Leaders in all parts of the company are critical in safeguarding and championing desired behaviors, energizing people, and reinforcing alignment and accountability. The critical few come into play here as a handful of the right kind of leaders have to be on board to start the process and see it through.

6. Behaviors are linked to business objectives. When people talk about feelings, motivations, and values — all of which are vital elements of strong cultures — the conversation often go into abstractions ranging far afield of what it takes to succeed in the market. Too many employees walk away from culture-focused town halls or values discussions wondering how the advice on how to be a better person actually translates into the work they do. We avoid this disconnect, offer tangible, well-defined examples of how cultural interventions lead to improved performance and financial outcomes. Without results, culture goes no where!

7. Demonstrate impact quickly. You need results now! That applies as much to organizational culture. When people hear about new high-profile initiatives and efforts, and then don’t see any activity related to them for several months, they’ll deepend their disengagement and perpetuate their cynicism. It’s extremely important to showcase the impact of cultural efforts on business results as quickly as possible with small wins.

8. Use strategic communication system to go viral. Ideas spread virally across organizational departments and functions, as well as from the top down and from the bottom up. One powerful way to spread ideas is through your formal and informal communication system from some of the informal leaders.

People are often more receptive to changes in “the way we are expected do things around here” when those changes are recommended or shared by friends, colleagues, and other associates. This credible social proof is more compelling than similar testimonials from someone whose job it is to sell something.

9. Align strategic efforts with behaviors. We’ve emphasized the role informal leaders can play in helping ideas go viral – Change Circles. It’s also important to link up evolving cultural direction with existing ways of doing business – practical. Informal mechanisms and cultural interventions must complement and integrate with the more common formal organization components, not work against itself.

It’s a rhythm between hierarchy and informal network leverage. By providing the structure in which people work — the disciplines of organization design, analytics, human resources, and lean process improvement — the formal organization provides rational movement for employee actions, while the informal organization enables the emotional commitment that characterizes peak performance…thus delivering small wins and increased momentum.

10. Predictively manage your cultural situation over time. Companies that have had great success working with culture actively monitor, manage, care for, and update their cultural forces. It’s part of their culture, their DNA – dynamic natural ability. When culture is aligned with strategic and operating priorities, it can provide hidden sources of energy and inspiration that accelerates changes faster than formal processes and programs.

You have options:

No Help Required. We can plan and implement our own strategy. Then why are you wasting time reading this article? I’ll answer that question for you with a 5 minutes excerpt of my latest book Influencing Culture – Accelerating Change with Influence and Impact.

Definitely Would Value an Outside Resource. We have a proven platform that delivers 5-10X ROI guaranteed in a simple, powerful and practical manner. Bold statement and I stand behind it! We can take you from cradle-to-grave, guide and support your OD or LD managers or you test the waters with our 90-Day Accelerator program. We meet you at your point of need and level of investment. Feel free to do more research on our site, or call me for a no obligation, no sale pitch conversation. You speak directly to me – no bank of operators, no middle filters; I’ll tell you the good, the bad and the ugly truth the Big Houses won’t tell you.

Uncertain and Unsure. Great! You need more information. I have two resources for you to review on your own time when you’re ready. The first one is the above book, and for a limited time, I’ll give it to you free. Why? Because your success is directly tied to ours, and if the only interaction we have is through our blueprint, then it’s worth it. I believe in reciprocity – it’s a core value here at JSP/Brookestone. Simply email me your receipt and I’ll refund the book and shipping costs to you.  Here’s the second resource, an excerpt from The Culture Change Advantage. You decide; you have options and we have solutions for whichever stage you find yourself in given your unique situation. If you prefer to discuss it over the phone, then I offer that too. Access my private calendar here for a no obligation, no sales pitch conversation when it suits you.

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