The influence of corporate culture on an organization’s ability to effectively execute on strategic objectives is well recognized. Yet all too often when culture is misaligned with strategy, leaders are unable to alter their organization’s culture and then fail to reach their objectives.
One of the most important thinkers on management theory and practice, management consultant and author Peter Drucker expressed the view that company culture constrains strategy and can even defeat it. This has often been summarized as “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Culture plays a huge role in the success of a business as it governs people’s organizational behavior and ultimately the execution of strategy. And culture increasingly plays a vital role in attracting and retaining talent. According to a recent Glassdoor study, 77 percent of people would evaluate a company’s culture before applying for an open position. Fifty-six percent stated an organization’s culture was more important than compensation.
When your company’s culture is unable to fully support your strategy, it’s time to renovate your culture.
“Successful companies recognized that certain elements of their organization, just as in any home renovation, are the core—the foundation of what made them great to begin with,” writes Kevin Oakes, CEO of i4cp and author of Culture Renovation. “Similar to a house where you want to improve the value, companies recognize that to better compete in the future, to continuously improve shareholder return, and to attract top talent, they need to renovate.”
However, Oakes found only 15 percent of companies that embark on culture change were able to succeed. After extensive research and executive interviews, his company defined 18 steps as a blueprint in order to initiate and maintain culture change. Referencing stories from well-known companies such as Microsoft, T-Mobile, Ford and Starbucks, Oakes outlines these steps in three phases: plan, build and maintain.
In the planning phase are things like figuring out what to keep, defining desired behaviors, and determining how progress will be measured, monitored and reported. The building phase includes clearly communicating that change is coming, ferreting out skeptics and nonbelievers early, and establishing a co-creation mindset. In the maintaining phase Oakes prescribes making onboarding about relationships rather than red tape, changing performance management practices and leveraging employee affinity groups.
And similar to any change initiative, success is directly tied to the level of active and engaged executive sponsorship.
Renovating is an apt word for this work with regard to corporate culture. It is about preserving the unique elements while updating or adopting “next practices” to better meet current conditions. Similar to renovating a house, renovating an organization’s culture means determining what is essential and building upon that.
“For a renovator, a house is not an artifact locked in time, but a distinct being with a character and history that should be upheld even as the owner’s needs are taken into account,” writes Erica Bauermeister, author of House Lessons: Renovating a Life. Unlike remodeling, Bauermeister says renovating requires a certain respect for what is there and what should remain in order to successfully transform.
So too with renovating corporate culture. Listen and learn what is to be kept. Gather a team of effective influencers. Clearly communicate early and often. Create a compelling vision. Provide training on desired behaviors. Promote those who best represent the new culture.
“Culture is critical, and changing it is difficult,” writes Oakes. “Whether renovating a house or overhauling the culture of a century-old organization, it never goes as planned. The process demands optimism, patience, and perseverance.”
Renovate your culture to align with your strategy and your company will become unshakeable.