Organizations rightfully pay attention to strategic planning which involves translating the organization’s mission (reason for existence) and vision (desired direction and outcomes) into concrete goals and plans. What often gets overlooked in strategic planning is the role that organizational culture plays in the attainment of the strategy.
Culture is the manifestation of how a group’s shared beliefs, values, and norms influence and guide mindsets, decisions, and actions. Like good dance partners, strategy and culture need to work in sync. Strategy provides the desired direction while culture influences how people actually interact and work. Culture exists independent of strategy, but a sustainable strategy is not likely to succeed without a strong and healthy culture.
What can organizations do to develop and strengthen their culture? Start by assessing where your existing culture aligns with and where it conflicts with your organization’s stated vision, values, and goals. A strong and healthy culture requires intentional, sustained, and systematic effort to define, communicate, model, and embed the desired cultural values and norms within the organization’s leadership, work environment, decision-making, performance management, and reward and recognition program.
To foster a compelling culture that motivates employees from within, involve them in the process of defining the desired culture; anchor key behaviors and practices to performance goals, feedback, recognition, and rewards; and connect the desire for interesting and meaningful work to the realization of the organization’s vision, goals, and culture. Promote the organization’s cultural values and norms as a meaningful frame of reference that actually guides decision-making and behavior, and ensure that there is accountability for upholding the culture.
Organizations need people to realize their strategies and people need clarity about what is most important to guide them in how to get there. Culture is a powerful force that can unite, inspire, and focus employees in the right direction.