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Saturday, 10 March 2012 01:15

If culture eats strategy for lunch, change management is part of a healthy breakfast

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PART 1 of 2:  It's all about balance

A few weeks ago, FastCompany blogger Shawn Parr wrote a post entitled 'Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch'.  It was a great headline which got a lot of attention, and it seemed to imply that culture alone, if done well, can almost obviate the need for strategy.  The theory is that when the organization - and the employees - are actively living the company's values, vision and goals on a daily basis, strategy will somehow take care of itself.

In fact, it's a combination of culture + strategy that wins the day.  However, while studies show there is a direct correlation between a healthy, productive culture and a company's bottom line, the majority of companies spend little time thinking, let alone doing anything about, this topic - even when they're spending lots of time thinking about their business strategy.

Example: Company A

Company A is making money in spite of itself.  They have wonderful products but just can't seem to find a way to manufacture and ship them consistently. Sales keeps on selling and then demanding that Operations deliver; Operations feels like the neglected stepchild but can't seem to find a way to manage and meet the demand.  There's so much internal infighting and drama that sometimes it's hard to remember exactly what the goals really are.

What's wrong with this organization?  Is it strategy, culture, or both?

Organizational analysts could go crazy trying to figure out what the problem could be because there isn't a clear answer - at first.  The complexity is mind-boggling, and undermines any solutions put forward.  Is there an easier way?


Looking at the symptoms from a higher level, a possible picture begins to emerge.  It's all about balancing culture and strategy.

Company A is making money and their sales force is clearly connected to the customer.  But a strategic emphasis on sales, to the detriment of operations, is undermining their progress.  At the same time, a 'blame culture' has emerged which is making the infighting acceptable.

The corporate culture and strategy are out of balance.  It's not uncommon for companies with the best of intentions to focus on one area or another, but balance is what delivers business results.

Balance can be looked at simply, as in the balance between an External Focus and an Internal Focus.  It can also be looked at as a balance between Adaptability, Mission, Consistency and Involvement.

The Denison Culture Model, below, shows the different elements of culture.  To be considered a high-performing culture, and as a result a high-performing organization, a company needs to consider all four quadrants in order to succeed.



A balance between Adaptability and Mission (which supports the External Focus) and Involvement and Consistency (which supports the Internal Focus) is crucial.  Growth requires high levels of Adaptability and Mission but operating, performance and quality require high levels of Involvement and Consistency.  Innovation and customer satisfaction is about marrying Involvement with Adaptability.  Stable performance over time shows the joining of Mission and Consistency.

PART 2:  Rational vs Emotional

Read 5454 times Last modified on Sunday, 18 March 2012 06:26

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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