Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

By Miranda Naiman, accidental entrepreneur, motivational speaker, member of the EO Tanzania chapter and founder of Empower Limited, a Tanzanian human capital consultancy firm.

It is mind-boggling how much time and money is invested in “strategy” at many companies—with some larger organizations even hiring a full-time person or team to oversee “strategy and innovation.” While commendable, this effort to invest in strategy doesn’t work unless the company also focuses on culture. After culture eats breakfast, it continues to chomp its way through strategy for lunch and dinner, too!

No matter what business or client strategy you try to implement with your team, its success completely relies on the people implementing the plan. In essence, if the people driving the strategy aren’t passionate about the initiative or, worse, are apathetic about their job and their organization, then chances are limited that any strategy will be executed.

Organizational culture is intangible; as such, it can be difficult to influence. It is the personality of your organization—those moments created by people breathing life into your values; your unique way of working or protocol.

If the current culture of your organization is not aligned with your strategy, I suggest you take a hard look at how to make some tweaks and clean up your house.

Rather than one dominating the other, strategy and culture should dine together with the intimacy of long-lost friends. Here are ways to catalyze this reunion of friends:

Understand your number one measure of business success.

At the top of the pyramid lies your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal), a game-changing outcome of effectively executing your strategy combined with a key metric for business success. This true-north metric could be financial or a performance denominator.

No matter what it is, you should be crystal clear of your winning moves—the plays that will allow your organization to achieve, extend and exploit its market position.

Now, ask yourself: Does everyone in the organization understand where you are going? Does everyone know that BHAG?

Breathe life into your values.

Organizational values are not a bunch of words listed on your company website or a checkbox exercise. They are your business DNA. If strangers were to watch you (your organization) for a few days, what words would they use to describe you and the way you do your work? What problem do you exist to solve and for whom? Most importantly, why does it matter to you?

Learn more about why entrepreneurs like Miranda choose EO for their peer learning, professional development and once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

Hire for attitude.

If culture is defined by the web of people associated with your organization, it is critical that new hires embody your values from the get-go. Find creative ways to assess potential recruits. Go beyond conventional personality profiling. Immerse prospective hires in a team huddle or meeting and observe their behavior. Invite them on one of your team building days or take them out for lunch with a couple of colleagues. You will be amazed at what you can learn by throwing someone in the deep-end—a surefire way to diagnose whether they are a cultural #InstaFit or #InstaMiss.

Really lead by example.

There is no use preaching from the pulpit. Culture is a unanimous and all-encompassing way of being that not only unites a team but fosters the right environment for strategic execution.

I’ve been known to bust-a-move with my team on occasion—it’s all part of our culture. As a leader, you will need to drop the pretense and simply be. Energy is infectious. Be sure that your energy helps, not hinders, and purposefully inspires people to deliver.




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