Strategy Versus Culture – Which Comes First?
Is the strategy versus culture debate relevant? Most of our clients have a high growth strategy to grow revenues and profits quickly before their market shifts. But unless leaders are careful, they risk sacrificing the corporate culture that helped you succeed up until now.
Do You Have to Make A Choice?
Do you have to make a choice between your corporate strategy and your corporate culture in the strategy versus culture debate? The short answer is no. Both strategy and culture are critical to your overall success. The timing however matters a great deal.
The Importance of Strategy – 31% of the Difference
Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations in terms of revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
The Importance of Culture – 40% of the Difference
We define culture as the way things get done on a day-to-day basis. Our organizational alignment research found that workplace culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performance.
Getting Aligned – Strategy Must Go Through Culture and People
The key is organizational alignment. When your workplace culture and your business strategy are at odds (often in the pursuit of high growth), you are headed for trouble.
It is your business strategy (the what) that provides the true north to ruthlessly prioritize investments and to make tough decisions. It is your corporate culture (the how) that guides your business practices and keeps behaviors, beliefs and assumptions on the right path to execute your strategy in a way that makes sense.
Without Organizational Alignment
If your business strategy is unclear, unbelievable or too difficult to implement for your marketplace or corporate culture, it is almost impossible to create an aligned and high performance culture. So, while we also believe that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” you cannot create an aligned and high performance culture without first developing a clear and compelling strategy.
Strategy Comes First
So, from our perspective, Strategic Clarity almost always comes first – before cultural change. Why? Because you need to know where you are headed to provide the context for “How” you will get there.
But, once your strategy is clear, believable and implementable enough, you must take the time to purposefully align your corporate culture to your specific strategy for it to have a chance to succeed.
What Happens When Strategy and Culture are Unaligned?
The pressure to grow without a healthy and aligned culture can lead companies astray. Just look at Wells Fargo. The leadership seemed to emphasize growth at all costs. Between 2011 and 2015 employees who were feeling the pressure opened over 1.5 million deposit accounts and 565,000 credit-card accounts that may not have been authorized.
Some customers were charged fees on accounts they didn’t know they had. The focus on growth without true alignment with a culture of integrity led to unprecedented fraud in the banking industry.
The Risks of Misaligned Strategy and Culture
In addition to the recent culture horror stories at Wells Fargo, Uber and VW, if you lose the “great place to work” culture that got you started on the path to success, you will begin to lose your top talent, experience a decline in employee engagement, and be less attractive to the “A” players you need to succeed.
It is very much worth it to ensure that your culture remains healthy and positive. Otherwise you will lose the competitive edge required to grow.
Strategy and Culture Starts at the Top
While we recommend actively involving the entire organization in the strategy and culture design and alignment process, your leaders are the ones who must fully commit to the desired strategy and culture. Then they must “live” it in both their actions and words. The Board, the CEO, the senior managers…all have to buy into and model the strategic direction, behaviors and values of a high performing organization.
Then every employee needs to understand what is expected and that they will be held accountable…as will every leader.
The Bottom Line
When your corporate values and behaviors are aligned with a clear and compelling strategy, your employees are set up to think and act as one. This creates true alignment and the pathway to high growth.
To learn more about the strategy versus culture debate and how to create an aligned and high performance culture, download 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture
Corporate Change Is Personal
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What a personal and professional pleasure it has been to Partner with LSA. They are truly a strategic partner with Wyse. For more than 5 years, LSA has been engaged in delivering various training and development solutions for Wyse, from custom on-site programs targeting specific core competencies, to working individually with clients to build job skills, and offering invaluable services to me and my team as we continue to build our learning programs. LSA’s representatives do more than sell a product, they offer a full service solution: they understand our business, our strategic initiatives, and the needs of our customers.
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Vice President of Human Resources
Each program is preceded by an assessment of the participants. The course is then designed to fit the specific parameters and needs of the group. The highly interactive delivery is provided by recognized experts in their fields. On the spot coaching is provided during the program and each participant receives individual follow-up after the course. Courses can be delivered in-person or virtually. Given the nature of Cisco’s business and the way we operate, these remote workshops are a must for anyone who joins our company. Their work is eye opening. Great content and fantastic delivery.
Frank J. Kuypers
Business Development Manager
LSA helped us design and deliver a blended learning solution for our leaders to help drive our growth plans in a way that aligned with our specific culture and values. LSA understood our business, had deep expertise in the content areas, tailored the programs to fit our specific needs, and delivered great results. They constantly strive to deliver business impact and align their solutions with our business initiates, culture, and performance management systems. I highly recommend them to anyone looking to take their leaders to the next level.”
Beth A. Taylor
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We recently partnered with LSA Global to offer our Supervisors and Managers a customized two-day management training program. Everyone who attended said it was by far the best management training program they had ever attended. The content was rich and highly interactive. The case studies were relevant. Each participant walked away from the training much better equipped to lead their teams.
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We partnered with LSA Global to help us invest in our people in the areas of performance coaching, diversity, and inclusion. They focused on helping us succeed and were very flexible in meeting our specific needs. LSA Global exceeded my expectations from a speed, quality, and value standpoint. I would recommend LSA Global to anyone looking for a true business partner.
Director, Human Resources
I consistently look to LSA Global when I need custom programs put together for my client groups. I can always count on LSA to do a thorough needs analysis and to put together spectacular programs that are well received. Their management development and performance management expertise and professionalism make them one of my top-rated learning and development partners.
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Vice President, Human Resources
I have worked with other training companies and found it to be more of a seller/buyer relationship than one of matching the right expertise to our business issues. That’s what LSA does – ask the hard questions, listen, and understand our business needs. We receive the benefit of their expertise from assistance with personal development plans to enhancing team performance, to looking at enterprise-wide challenges. It’s all about helping our business succeed as we grow. Right now, LSA is providing great ideas, a fresh approach, and valuable guidance as we develop our management team and accelerate our client relationship management results.
Director, Team Development
What a refreshing change from the half-baked psycho-babble you normally get from training and consulting organizations. LSA gives you the practical and results-oriented assistance you need to define and reach your goal. They provide a results driven plan – not just a temporary fix. They are great to work with, and even more importantly, they “get it!”
Vice President Human Resources
We value our relationship with LSA Global. We came to LSA because we wanted to improve overall behavioral based interviewing capabilities of our managers to increase the probability of both hiring top talent and future leaders. LSA designed a highly customized solution for our business and culture. We are currently rolling out this solution to our leaders. I would highly recommend LSA Global as a top quality resource.
HR Project Manager - Training & Development, PHR
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