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2 min read

Is culture more important than strategy?

We’re in a time when forgetting your company culture might just be your downfall. The most important thing about culture is that it’s the only sustainable point of difference for any organisation. Anyone can copy your strategy, but nobody can copy your culture. So don’t leave it untended!

The best businesses are the ones that have a culture that has grown to be bigger and stronger than any one individual. If your culture is strong then it gains power through inspiring your people to conform to it. It becomes the thing that links everyone together, no matter what department they’re in. If your people become engaged with the company, the strategy is more likely to be “owned” by all and focused upon.

If people weren’t already aware of the importance of culture then the Barclay’s situation has certainly brought it to light. Companies should be performance driven and values led. Many of the banks were simply performance driven.

Culture has to originate somewhere though. It doesn’t just happen. It is a leader’s responsibility to identify a cultural vision for the company, live and breathe it themselves, and then help to steer the rest of the company in the right direction. Culture comes directly from the behaviour of the leaders, and it is their duty to involve and inspire the whole of the organisation.

The rise of the “discerning customer” and the fragmentation of the media have made culture even more important. Anyone with a mobile phone and internet connection is now effectively a member of the paparazzi, a photographer and a blogger.

The culture of a company relies on there being a clear set of values, strong leadership and a sense of transparency and honesty between the company and the public. These factors will be the ones that differentiate your company in times of austerity and increased competition.

In 2011 Booz & Company released the research “Why Culture Is Key.”:

Culture matters, enormously. Studies have shown again and again that there may be no more critical source of business success or failure than a company’s culture – it trumps strategy and leadership. That isn’t to say strategy doesn’t matter, but rather that the particular strategy a company employs will succeed only if it is supported by the appropriate cultural attributes.

Of course strategy is important but this must be accompanied by a strong culture if lasting success is to be won.

Basic “building blocks” to build a strong culture:

  • Dynamic and engaged leadership – Know what’s going on at all levels of your organization
  • Living values – Rather than frame values in the conference room, model your values throughout the organization on a daily basis
  • Responsibility and accountability – Recognize your employees’ talents and be clear about what they are responsible for
  • Celebrate success and failure Celebrate big and small victories, and make a point about learning from your mistakes

Without culture, everything else cannot work. Strategy will only succeed if it is supported by the appropriate cultural attributes.

About the Author

Torben Rick is an experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement and development, change management and turn-around. He has international experience from management positions in Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

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Torben Rick

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