What Comes First – Strategy or Culture?

One of the biggest misconceptions about culture is that it’s squishy and unmeasurable.
We were with a group of CEO’s last week who were divided in their opinion about the value of culture. Some thought it was a waste of time to come up with a vision statement, because they “had real work to do”. Others saw culture as a critical element of their leadership role, and regularly reinforced culture clarity. Through our conversation, everyone was increasingly convinced that culture does matter and it’s more than a vision statement or values.
A few tips as you ponder the strategy and culture question:

  1. Strategy and culture are both essential. Strategy tells you what, when and where, while culture addresses who and how. But even a clearly defined strategy is insufficient without understanding the cultural strengths you have and the cultural forces within your business. Use the power of your company’s cultural strengths as an enduring advantage to fuel your strategy’s success.
  2. Culture always exists. The question is whether it’s accidental, hypocritical, or intentional. Recognizing that your organization has a culture is only the first step. Knowing what to do with culture is the difference between being disrupted and being a market leader. An intentional culture is a lever that leaders must leverage to accelerate the implementation of strategy. Align your culture to your strategy to add octane to your team’s performance.
  3. Measuring culture can be done, and it is useful for many reasons:
    • Measurement makes culture tangible. It gives you a baseline to indicate how you’ve improved and where you still need to focus.
    • Measurement of culture is a predictive indicator of success. Financials are a lagging indicator of success.  Both help leaders adjust, but culture metrics bring attention to issues before they get reflected on the financials.

The purpose of a company is not to create a nice workplace culture but to function in the economy, to provide goods and services. Once you’ve got that concept that we’re in this-and-this business, then you want to design a workplace culture that optimizes fitting that business.” – Dr Edgar Schein

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