November 7, 2017
From Apple to Zappos, every successful company has its own distinct corporate culture. Whether you are observing the leaders’ strategic decision making, HR’s hiring practices, or the marketing team at work, this culture permeates everything the company does.
When corporate culture does not align with the strategic goals of the company, optimal performance will be impossible to sustain. Just as a garden must be carefully tended to keep weeds from taking it over, culture must be consciously maintained to prevent it from morphing into something unintended.
If you follow business news, you may be aware that a large number of corporate snafus can be blamed on the misalignment of culture within an organization. Allowing culture and strategy to fall out of alignment can bring leaders face-to-face with far-reaching consequences. These include:
The four problems above are red flags that your culture and organizational strategy may be out of alignment. If you’re experiencing them, take these three steps to start the process of culture realignment:
Examine your people. Take a hard look at the employees your organization is hiring and promoting. Are they a good fit with the organization’s strategy and purpose? (For instance, do you have a lot of “lone wolf” types in an organization that relies strongly on teamwork?) If you notice a disconnect in this area, your hiring and promotion policies and practices may be due for revision.
Examine your systems. Do your organization’s systems support or conflict with your cultural values? For instance, if trust is one of your primary values, can you truly endorse an expense system that does not permit most of your senior executives to approve large expenditures?
Examine your communications. What words are your leaders using to communicate with your people? What principles are they talking about? What milestones and events are they choosing to commemorate? Are these communication choices supporting a culture that reinforces your strategy?
We often hear companies such as Starbucks, Google, and Zappos praised for their outstanding corporate culture. There’s a reason for this. The leaders of these companies have made the commitment to fully align their culture with their strategies. With every organizational choice they make, they reinforce that commitment. By embracing that level of dedication to alignment, any organization can conquer cultural problems to achieve stellar performance.