Insight article

Culture vs strategy: which will take you past the winners’ post?

I very much enjoyed Fast Track's blog on Culture vs Strategy. It highlights the need for a strong, believable strategy to underpin the success of a business, regardless of how great or strong the culture. Bob Frisch gives a number of examples where companies have gained competitive advantage as a result of a great strategy, making the point that while culture reinforces the strategy (and indeed can be a critical success factor when it comes to the winners' stakes), culture can't be depended upon alone to make a company great.

I'm interested in this because we do a lot of work with companies that are looking to change their culture. Typically, to become more collaborative, inclusive and empowering (after all, if you want lasting change, you won't achieve much by sticking to a paternalistic, command-control culture). And they're not changing culture for culture's sake…the end game is to change behaviours which will achieve better performance in line with the strategy. For example, adopting different ways of interacting with customers, driving efficiency or sharing knowledge so that others can adopt best practice in their ways of working.

So if strategy is critical to gaining competitive advantage, with the added value being a strong culture to reinforce it, it makes total sense to begin any culture change with a clear, compelling and credible strategic narrative as the starting point. To change our behaviours we need to know why, what our business's ambition is, what the new world will look like if we do, what it will take to get there and how we can all contribute through different ways of working and changing mindsets. And once the culture starts to change, reinforcing it constantly with stories of success that link directly back to the strategy and vision. Culture and strategy: the two go hand-in-hand.

Nailia Tasseel