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Culture and Alignment - How to focus on your goals


Corporate culture and Strategy Execution go hand in hand, but like any marriage, a successful union necessitates a strategy being cultivated, executed and improved within the ‘right’ organizational environment.

Written by: James Milsom, Head of Marketing

Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Peter Drucker

Why align your culture and strategy?

For a strategy to be deemed 'successful', a culture can make or break its fate.

Drucker's quote does not suggest that a strategy is destined to fail when placed within a difficult internal culture, but more so that a blissful marriage between culture and Strategy Execution is a great foundation for success.

And what is the result of culture embracing strategy? Some estimates suggest growth rates of 30% and profits increasing by 17%.

Vver the past 20+ years our organizaton has worked with companies in many areas, and in that time we have learned that great organizations have a culture that sets them apart from the pack. Unfortunately, research still indicates an abnormally low number of companies feeling that they have the culture to execute their strategy successfully.

However, with the right blend of culture, strategy, and the Strategy Execution tools to guide the way, alignment, engagement and continuous improvement is achievable. With that in mind, based off our experience working with organizations that once felt their culture and Strategy Execution couldn't be aligned, this is what we consider to be the key elements to marrying the two.


The ingredients for the ‘right’ culture to execute strategy

When looking at all the ingredients of great unions, and specifically at the ones that stand the test of time, you find it is not because the two people are the same or one just does as the other says, it is because they embrace the fact they are different and learn ways to work as one, with the love and passion they started with.

So, what exactly goes into making the ‘right’ culture to execute your strategy?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to answering this question, and it certainly isn’t a case of your organization being ‘modern’, or offering employee benefits. That won’t cut it.

These are the different ingredients in providing the right culture to execute your strategy:

  1. Happiness breeds productivity – That’s not just a label, but can mean empowering line managers to support their team through quality data, closing the feedback loop to involve customers’ comments, and showing how someone’s actions benefit your customers. A happier workforce makes for greater productivity and focus on your strategy.
  2. Engagement – Involvement and communication of strategy, plans, objectives and how it all feeds into the successes of the organization is crucial.
  3. Framework for success – Provide clear processes for planning activity, measuring and improving.
  4. Celebration and education – Of success, failures and learnings.
  5. Collaboration – Ensure teams have the tools and space to work outside of a silo, embracing the views of different team members, all for the benefit of your customers and strategy.
  6. Direction – Give your organization the vision and decisiveness to set your strategy and act on it through delegation, measurement and continuous improvement.

Adapted from Harvard Business Review

When you put in place any combination of the above ingredients you find your organization in a position where its culture can be the foundation for successful strategy execution. And with the c-suite largely finding the development of corporate culture to be an oft-forgotten element of their success, getting it right can lead to a 20% increase in performance over organizations that don’t.

That leads us to the natural question of whether your strategy embraces your culture.

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Strategy embracing culture

I’m sure you have all at some point in your careers seen the corporate strategy being circulated at the beginning of a financial year. Or even had the Head of HR roll out KPIs or personal objectives for the year. They’re things we see but really can’t draw the dots on how it applies to us. We know that when management communicate that there is a downturn in the market and they need to make savings all we can think about is, will it be my job next?

This can be said for marriage as well. Things will happen in your life that affects your family, it could be your partner’s side of the family or yours, and depending on how strong your marriage is, will affect you both in different ways. In a great marriage, you embrace the other half, feeling each other’s pain and supporting one another. Sharing experiences and comforting each other through these times makes the bond between you stronger.

Where I have found the real magic in a long-lasting corporate culture is when the strategy embraces the different parts of its business, bringing them together to form a common view and feeling of the company. Yet the reality is that typically only 14% of employees understand an organization’s strategy.

Estimates suggest the union of culture and strategy can bring growth rates of 30% and a 17% increase in profit.

When aligned, if you have environmental threats which impact the company you are far more attached at all levels, meaning you can react quickly and course correct as necessary to bring everything back into balance. When you do this in a solid and connected way, all levels of the company are aware of the changes, and what they need to do to affect the change required to meet the new demands.

Finding the right partner to join strategy and culture

Now, the strange thing is when we choose a partner for life, we all have likes and dislikes, but there are things that we can say are common. Say, someone who will always be there for you, always gives you support, is financially stable, helps you to grow and expand your experiences, and finally, makes you feel secure and can trust them. Sounds like a great partner, right?

Well, in a company it’s the same when it comes to culture and strategy. It all starts with the right partner and enterprise solution. There are 7 requirements for finding the right partner, and keeping these in mind is crucial for making the best choice:

  1. Choose an enterprise standard over a cheap and quick platform
  2. Ensure that the software provider has a solid roster of staff and experts behind it
  3. Complete due diligence to ensure the financial stability of the provider
  4. Get assurances of continued investment in the research and development of the software
  5. Make sure that they treat your information and data with the utmost respect
  6. Assess the scalability of the execution software to ensure it matches your needs
  7. Review the plans in place in terms of disaster recovery and business continuity?

Selecting the right enterprise solution is like choosing the right partner for life – it should be a natural, yet obvious choice in the end. You want a partner to be there to help your company grow and steer its way through what the world throws at it over time. How else will you stand the test of time?

i-nexus prides itself on giving the world’s largest organizations the tools to bring out the best in their strategy. No matter the methodology in use, be that Hoshin Kanri or Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Measures, our Strategy Execution Software helps marry up culture and strategy, giving senior leaders the visibility needed to effectively manage any major corporate change.

When you make the right choices, for the right reasons (culture), your company will stand not only the test of time but grow and be a shining light to all the competitors out there that said you couldn’t make it.

We stand behind all our clients to ensure they are getting the best out of what we offer, and to ensure they are meeting the key goals they wanted to achieve, as do our friends and family in our married life. I am sure everyone would agree that the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Philip would have been filled with challenges, but here we are today showing with the right support around you, you can make it happen.

Want to learn more about successfully executing your strategy?

We have a wealth of resources freely available to digest, all designed to help your organization achieve its goals. We've hand-picked the below to set you on the right track:

About the author

James is i-nexus’ Head of Marketing. Bringing a passion for strategy from a marketing angle, you’ll find he loves to intertwine sports and strategy. His background covers industries such as energy, broadband, education and employee benefits.

If you’d like to talk more about your strategic challenges, reach out to James on james.milsom@i-nexus.com or connect with James on LinkedIn for more strategic insights.