A Misaligned Workplace Culture Creates Problems

A ship is stranded on shore showing a Misaligned Workplace Culture

A Misaligned Workplace Culture Creates Problems
Once you accept the fact that workplace culture matters (and matters a lot) when you are trying to build a high performing organization, then you can focus your attention on what culture gaps might exist.  And you should care about a misaligned workplace culture because it increases the chances that your top employees may become disengaged and quit.

The Definition of Workplace Culture
Workplace culture is how things truly get done in an organization. It is the way people think, behave and work. It includes the behaviors, systems, and practices that drive key business decisions – especially in leaders and in who they hire, fire and promote.  Your business and people strategies must go through your workplace culture to be successfully implemented.

Why Culture Matters
Peter Drucker famously said “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Research agrees with him:

  • Watson Wyatt found that culturally aligned organizations return 286% more value to stakeholders
  • Harvard Business Review reported as much as 50% of the competitive difference between companies in the same industry can be attributed to culture
  • Our own organizational alignment research found that culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of revenue, profits, customer satisfaction and retention, leadership effectiveness and employee engagement

The Definition of a Misaligned Workplace Culture
We define a misaligned workplace culture as a work environment in which “how things get done” is in not in complete harmony with “what needs to get done” to execute the business and people strategies. A misaligned workplace culture makes it more difficult to get the right things accomplished in the right way.  In a misaligned workplace culture there is a lot of friction, resistance and dysfunction.

Conversely, our research found that a well aligned workplace culture can improve productivity by as much as 25%.  What impact would this have on your organization?

Why Workplace Culture is Often Misaligned
The creation of a strategic plan consists of a straightforward set of tasks than can typically be described, documented, and completed. When executing these goals, however, the relative simplicity of creating the plan quickly morphs into something significantly more complex, most notably because of culture.

Goals rarely fail because defined structural obstacles were not overcome (although many plans fail to recognize these obstacles). Plans too often fail because organizations haven’t adequately defined or aligned their cultural business journey to executing their vision. Culture is hard to change because many organizations have a highly fragmented set of underlying belief systems which determine how to interpret and accomplish these goals.

The critical beliefs required to size up and execute the goals (what we call the secret sauce) are rarely articulated, measured, or purposeful.

Warning Signs of a Misaligned Workplace Culture
The first warning sign of a misaligned workplace culture is when the basic building blocks of leadership – trust and accountability – are lacking.  Misaligned workplace cultures lack confidence in their leaders to follow through, make necessary changes and to act in alignment with the company’s core values.   A misaligned workplace culture also lacks the necessary levels of pride, confidence, transparency, openness and focus to engender the trust required to create high levels of engagement and performance.

The second warning sign of a misaligned workplace culture is a lack of clarity regarding what each individual and team is expected to accomplish and how they are expected to think and behave in achieving those accomplishments.  When beliefs are in misalignment and disconnected to the strategy, it is difficult to hold individuals accountable for results or behaviors.

How to Create Culture and Strategy Alignment
If you are afraid that you may have a misaligned workplace culture, here are four steps to get you started in the right direction:

1. Uncover the Current Culture
Your first step is to assess your current corporate culture to get a clear and accurate picture of the way things are getting done and why. This is very different than your aspired culture and desired corporate values.  You want the unvarnished truth of what it is like to work at your company on a day-to-day basis.

2. Identify the Necessary Culture
Your next step is to agree upon the workplace culture that is required to best execute your strategy.  We have identified 10 dimensions of an aligned workplace culture which provide a framework to define and align the appropriate continuum of beliefs needed to best execute your strategic goals and make it easier to get things done.  Using the unaligned-to-aligned continuum approach allows everyone to be right, thus breaking down a critical resistance faced with most change efforts.

3. Agree Upon the Critical Few Culture Gaps and Next Steps
Not all cultural dimensions are of equal importance in terms of strategy execution. Leaders must agree on the one or two cultural shifts that will have the greatest positive impact on moving the strategy forward for your unique situation in a way that makes sense.

4. Deploy an Aligned Culture
Once you identify the one or two areas to create strategy and culture alignment, it is time to identify and prepare culture champions, to create short- and long-term action plans to create alignment, and to establish and track accountability for culture and strategy alignment targets.

The Bottom Line
If you want your company to perform at its peak, you need to create a culture that aligns with your strategy. That’s the way to accelerate strategy execution and outperform your peers.  Creating alignment between strategy and culture empowers everyone to become more interdependent and act with a more unified mindset.

To learn more about how to align your culture with your strategy, download How to Build a Purposeful and Aligned Corporate Culture.

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