Thursday, August 9, 2012
My recent Circle briefing, Culture Will Trump Strategy Every Time all members, looked at a critical aspect of effective leadership – understanding your organization’s culture and knowing when cultural issues must take precedent over specific tactics. That briefing elicited some great feedback from our OPEN MINDS Circle readers, including this comment from Centerstone of America Chief Policy and Strategy Officer, Bob Williams, Ph.D., HSPP:
After years of being involved in creating strategy and culture, I agree wholeheartedly with your observations – creating an aligned and effective strategy is a 400 meter dash compared to the marathon that creating a positive, value-based culture requires! I now believe that culture-building is even more important for a chief executive to lead than strategic planning.
This is a great analogy and highlights an important point – you need “stamina” to win the race in the long-term. The development of your strategic plan is only the first step. Then the plan must be successfully implemented, and a critical component of the implementation of the strategic plan is alignment of the strategy and organization culture. John Kotter, in his great book Managing Change, makes some excellent points about the critical importance of addressing organizational culture in any successful change process. He defines culture as:
Norms of behavior – common or pervasive ways of behaving that are found in a group (hard to change)
An organization’s shared values – important beliefs and goals shared by most of the people in a group (very hard to change)
Kotter states that when new processes and procedures are not compatible with an organization’s culture, they will “always be subject to regression”, and that any change can be undone, even after several years, because these changes have not been firmly rooted – or “anchored” in group norms and values. He identifies these critical components to anchoring change:
Focus on results – An organization must collect and use metrics that will clearly demonstrate the success of change efforts (see Four Cornerstones of Metrics-Based Management all members and The Four-Step Model for Metrics-Based Management: Improving the Bottom Line with Better Use of Data ).
Give ample verbal instruction and support – The right mix of communication is critical for the successful organizational dynamics that can anchor long-term change (see The Personality Side of Leadership all members).
Embrace necessary turnover – While appropriate individuals should been identified and retained, sometimes the only way to change a culture is to change key people in that culture.
Invest in succession planning – New leaders must be those who are compatible with the new culture, and succession planning is often an on-going process, designed to ensure your organization’s leadership continuity (see Replacing Key Leaders all members)
The day-to-day process of managing and leading requires time, effort, and commitment by the entire leadership team – and is a critical element for any plan to truly have “the legs” for long-term success. For a look into the leadership strategies that can help organizations get the most out of their culture, join me at The 2012 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Institute, September 13 in Gettysburg for my presentation, Using Transformational & Transactional Leadership Strategies: Chamberlain At Little Round Top.
John F. Talbot, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President, OPEN MINDS
For another free resource, see: Managerial DNA all members
This is free for the next sixty days to all registered OPEN MINDS Circle members.