Our fixation on strategy is natural. We must be solution focused to be great leaders, and we lean into creating effective strategies to review our performance against the market. Yet, this process often causes us to neglect our organisational culture – and then we begin to tread water.
We need to have the right culture to drive strategic change and evolution. Ever heard that saying, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”? (1) This phrase comes from one of the most influential thinkers on modern leadership – Peter Drucker. It’s truly fascinating how in life, we inherently know the value of balance. This moves beyond culture and strategy and impacts our thinking on topics like nutrition and exercise, family and friends, or work and hobbies. We understand that these elements need to co-exist harmoniously for us to lead sustainable lives.
Unintentionally, we don’t put enough emphasis on one in relation to the other. As leaders, we must allow for both to co-exist in our end goal, so we can achieve organisational success.
Strategy vs. Culture
Strategy and culture are the blueprints for organisational success. But do you really know how to define them? The strategy of your organisation should focus on what you do and where you’re going, while your culture should revolve around why we do it and how. They are deeply intertwined. But despite how linked they are, one does come before the other.
According to a study conducted by Harvard Business School professor James L. Heskett and his colleagues, culture has a significant impact on long-term sustainability and business performance. In their book “Corporate Culture and Performance,” they found that organisations with strong cultures consistently outperformed their industry peers in terms of financial results and enjoyed longer business cycles. (2) We must first consider the importance of long-term sustainability and business performance. Surprisingly, culture always emerges as the primary factor to success.
Culture and Sustainability
We’re not going to let culture take a backseat to strategy any longer. Prioritising culture doesn’t just allow the lifespan of your organisation to increase.
This manifests itself in four ways: community, collaboration, caring and customer experience. In the book “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose,” Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, emphasises the significance of prioritising culture within an organisation. Hsieh argues that by prioritising culture, organisations prioritise their people. He shares how Zappos achieved remarkable success by focusing on creating a positive and engaging work culture, resulting in increased employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and overall business performance. (3) Want to know more about Zappo’s culture? Read our blog here, or check out our video here.
Talent: There is one sure-fire way to retain great talent, and that’s through creating a connected community culture. If your culture thrives, your people genuinely want to contribute and be involved in the success of the organisation. By supporting them to be the best they can be, they become enthusiastic brand ambassadors, attracting partners, suppliers, clients, and stakeholders who are eager to collaborate. Not sure where your organisation sits? Our Connected Community Culture Pulse Survey is a great place to evolve your culture and build a more creative, collaborative and inspirational team environment. Get in touch with our friendly team today to find out how we can jump start your journey.
Agility: So, you’ve attracted great talent – how do you continue to build them up? Strong cultures create environments that nurture innovation and foster agility. When you actively encourage the free flowing of ideas, open communication, and collaboration, you can create an organisation the adapts and pivots through the most challenging of times.
Safety and Risk: We’ve now formed a great, and innovative team. But they are so much more than members of our team – they’re individuals. Culture plays a crucial role in ensuring both physical and psychological wellbeing within the organisation. While robust processes and frameworks are essential, fostering a culture that prioritises everyone’s wellbeing ensures a sense of shared responsibility. A great culture encourages proactive risk management, as everyone in the organisation becomes vigilant custodians of potential risks.
Customer Experience: This part comes naturally. If your organisation exists as a community, they freely collaborate and genuinely care for each other – your organisation will facilitate great customer experiences. This is the hallmark of organisations with great cultures. Passionate, engaged, and happy team members create positive interactions with customers. This leads to increased loyalty and advocacy. As Richard Branson famously claimed:
Culture, without a doubt, requires greater focus than strategy. When we place people at the forefront, organisations attract great talent, foster innovation, ensure safety and deliver outstanding customer experiences. This in turn will reinforce your strategy, and help you get where you need to be as an organisation.
But what are the first steps you need to take to achieve a great culture? You can follow this blog by watching our video on Culture vs Strategy presented by our Director, John Colbert. You can watch and learn more here.
Ultimately, by prioritising culture, leaders can unlock the potential for long-term success and sustainability. We wish you every success on your journey to building a sustainable business through the power of culture.
- Peter Drucker (2006)
- Heskett, J. L., Sasser, W. E., & Schlesinger, L. A. (2008). The Service Profit Chain: How Leading Companies Link Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Value. Simon and Schuster.
- Hsieh, T. (2010). Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. Business Plus.
- Richard Branson (2016)