What's Culture Got To Do with It?

A beautifully crafted strategy can fail when the employees in various divisions within an organization clash. Logically, we think that strategy should drive behavior, but, in reality, it's the culture—underlying norms, values, belief systems—that dictates how effectively people work together. Employees' behavior has direct impact on the bottom line, costs, revenue streams, level of productivity, customer satisfaction, even the brand—every aspect of the business is affected. If strategy and culture are not aligned, the culture may support behaviors that conflict with what has to get done—and actually block execution of the strategy.

If your strategy is to create synergies and economies of scale, while the culture is one where people work autonomously and in silos, the strategy could be impossible to achieve. And it only gets more complicated in a world where mergers, acquisitions, and alliances shape the corporate landscape. We know all too well that even with a respectful courtship, the expected benefits of merging two corporate cultures often fail to materialize. If only companies could simply snap together like plastic building blocks!

The most important asset in every company is the esprit de corps: the motivation and passion of each employee ... and ... their willingness to collaborate together on whatever strategic projects are critical for growth. At a time when 55% of the U.S. workforce is "actively disengaged" in their work at an annual productivity cost of $328 billion, understanding this esprit de corps element can greatly increase financial success. (Gallup Research, 2005.) How do you change this and bring culture into alignment with strategy?