Changing Culture before Strategy

Brandt International does many consulting and management interventions around Change Management, Business Transformation and Process Re-engineering around Six Sigma and Lean methodologies. In many of these engagements, we find the following are true.

Strategy and Execution are highly important to management and to the leadership. That is commendable as organizations pivot due to competition and disruptions in the economy and industry. However, if you look at how many organizations seemed to have failed their transformation or strategic execution plans, you may question the benefit of the logic above. Let me bring up the biggest hurdle to any transformation or strategic execution initiatives – culture.
Reflect on your own organization and see if it also holds water. Culture is the unseen and largest variable that is most often overlooked but also very often excluded from any strategic plans.

When looking at Transformational and Change, the reason is because it is difficult to quantify and to identify the cultural element. Factors like cost, external consultants, quality or programs are established and easily calculated. Reports and results are also easier to measure and analyze. Culture is also more embedded, subversive and runs a lot deeper.
As such, changing an organization’s culture is one of the toughest challenge any leader will face. It is hard because of the practices, attitudes and assumptions that permeate the entire organization. In addition, many organizations claim they have strong culture. Bear in mind, a strong culture does not mean fixed. Culture should always be growing and changing. As an organizations strategy, focus and objectives change, so also should culture change and adapt.
According to Peter Drucker, culture eats strategy for breakfast. It’s also harder to tackle but we at Brandt International feel that if serious Business Transformation and Strategy change is to be implemented effectively, we ought to take a good look at an organization’s culture and take a careful planned approach that involves cultural change or proper understanding and perspective of the culture.

It’s like Strategy and Tactical planning without including culture is like building without a foundation. It may seem like it is workingbut its not going to last or be sustainable!

Here are some ways to start looking at your organizations culture and improve it. The first is what any parent of a young child will be all familiar with. “Ask why” – the child’s response to any instruction is why. Why should I brush my teeth or take a nap. Similarly, ask why your organization does certain things. Probe and ask deep to get to the root of how the culture works in the organization. Secondly, it is to look at the leadership and management team – how do their values and the organization’s match up. This is because personal values can shape the organization’s culture. These are bold steps obviously but are much needed if you are to examine the culture in depth.

Finally, it may pay off to get an external assessment. An assessment by an external party can help highlight strengths and weaknesses of a company’s culture and perhaps, discover a clear improvement plan. An external assessment will also usually start with a clean slate and have the benefit of being neutral with no preconceived biases.
If you’re serious about organizational transformation, affecting culture, strategy and tactics, drop us a line and get our Six Sigma and Lean certified Business Consultants will get in touch with you.