Avoiding The Culture Diagnosis

Declining performance can usually be boiled down to issues with three C’s: Coherence (of strategy), Commitment (of management), and Capabilities (of the organization).

What about Culture you ask? After all, culture eats strategy for breakfast! Well yes, it does, but we suggest that you think of culture as an outcome rather than an input. More specifically, a the outcome of the 3 C’s. 

An incoherent strategy breeds confusion about priorities and an organization that’s all over the place. Lots of initiatives and activity, yet little progress in terms of results. Inconsistent management commitment to strategy breeds cynicism and division across the organization as everyone works to protect their local agendas in the absence of a firm global steer. Finally, a strategy that the organization is not equipped to execute breeds apathy and a growing divide between top management and the organization.

Add any of these ingredients to the organizational stew, let them simmer for a while, and you end up with a meal of dysfunctional values and behaviors.  The best people will gradually opt out, leaving you with less skills and more of the wrong culture. Now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s tempting to diagnose the problem as organizational culture, but how do you ‘fix’ a culture? Going down the road of 10x mindsets, empowerment or formulating a new set of company values is tantamount to putting lipstick on the pig. A better way forward is to start by thinking of culture as an outcome and consider how you can improve and align three C’s. 

So where does that leave us? Well, perhaps surprisingly it all starts with strategy. Here are three concrete pointers for your next strategy process that will ripple through to positively impact your culture. 1) Make it a point to prioritize strategic coherence over management team harmony. 2) As you work through your strategic options and choices, think hard about the capabilities that will be required to carry these out and what gaps you need to fill as a result. Are you willing and able to fill these? 3) Before you present the new strategy to the organization, make sure that you and your colleagues are fully committed and that your scorecards reflect that. Tick those three boxes, and in about a years time you’ll see and feel a different culture.