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Strategy and Culture – How do they interact?

By M. Dana Baldwin

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategy: the course and direction we want to take the company.  Culture: the way things are done in the company, the atmosphere within the company and the sum of the relationships within the company.  Not easily defined, nor easily quantified, it is the essence of the heartbeat of a company.

What does this really mean for a company and its people?  What are the implications for the effectiveness of strategies developed by the company and the company’s ability to implement and execute those strategies?

What are the implications of the impact of culture within a company?  Things start at the very top of the company with the leadership setting the tone for the company.  Leadership is responsible for instilling the principles desired within the company and leading by example.  Culture is something which cannot be directly ordered by the leadership.  It has to be lived so that the tone within the company is changed (if necessary) to reflect the values desired by the company.

Culture is very much affected by leadership.  Does the company have strong leaders?    Are the leaders actually involved in and responsible for the development of the strategic direction of the company? Are they good at communicating and reinforcing the strategies to the rest of the company? Are they involved personally in explaining the strategies or do they delegate the explanations to lower level people?  Is the information about strategies sufficient to inform the rest of the company well enough to allow everyone to support and buy into the course and direction of the company?

Do the leaders really “live” the strategies they have developed by supporting and guiding the company’s execution of those strategies?  How often and how energetically do they review and update their strategies?  Do the leaders participate in the execution of strategies or do they only delegate execution to subordinates?

Effective implementation of the strategic course and direction of a company requires a number of elements.  First, the leadership team must be directly involved in the development of the strategies that the company will follow.  A rigorous process should be followed in order to develop strategies which are appropriate and achievable by the company.

Next: the team that develops the strategies should be directly responsible for and involved in the execution of the actions required for the strategies.  Each senior executive should involve those people who are appropriate to help carry out the actions which are necessary to effect the strategy.

The senior team is also responsible for communicating the strategies and the desired results to the rest of the company.  Everyone in the company needs to know enough about the strategies and the desired outcomes to make them relevant to each person, so they will be “bought into” the process and the results.

In the end, the ability of the company leaders to communicate and execute their strategies effectively depends on:

a. the culture within the company,

b. the willingness of the staff to buy into the desired course and direction selected,

c. the eagerness of the staff to carry out the strategies, and

d. the belief in the senior leadership by the staff to develop appropriate strategies and to lead them through the execution of those strategies.

If you would like help in developing and communicating your strategic plan, please contact Dana Baldwin at baldwin@cssp.com.

For more information, we suggest you access the following article: Excellence in Strategic Management Teams by Thomas E. Ambler.

To enhance your company culture by communicating its strategy and enabling employees to participate in its achievement will enhance employee engagement.  To learn more about how to do this please click here to listen to our Strategic Alignment webinar.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. and can be reached at baldwin@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2013 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.