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Could Work Culture Choke Business Strategy?

|Feb 8|magazine11 min read

By Albert A. Vermeulen, Author of Corporate Success

Will your company’s culture align with your new business strategy? Do companies understand how to navigate the complexity of culture in such a way that it becomes a change-enabling milieu?

 

Let’s look at navigating strategy by means of a sailboat. Imagine being on a lake, wanting to sail from the western to the eastern shore. With luck, a westerly wind is blowing, presenting the ideal environment to make it seamlessly to the other side.  Upon reaching the eastern shore, you realize that the wind is still coming strongly out of the west, but now you wish to return. This poses a challenging environment where significantly more time and effort is needed to reach the other side.

Culture has similar characteristics. If a new strategy is built upon the same basic beliefs, a smooth transition is in order. If it isn’t, however, you’re going to fight that westerly wind.

 

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A problem that often occurs is that an organization sets out from one shoreline to the other with a fixed agenda, not anticipating the headwinds they might run into. How do companies prevent this? Early adoption by your employees is key to preventing the derailment of your business strategy. Here’s how:

Be proactive: Conduct an assessment in order to discover the beliefs of your employees that might be in the way of executing a new business strategy. This will help navigate cultural issues to identify risk in advance and will result in proactive mitigation.

Identify the disconnect: If resistance-related behavior by employees can be identified early on, leadership can connect the dots to learn which problems need to be mitigated.

Reconnect the broken link: If a broken link is discovered through resistance-related behavior, it needs to be mitigated by addressing the resistance issues rather than an attack on personal beliefs. Employees often hide their lack of ability or understanding behind unwillingness.

Beliefs drive behavior: Culture is visible through behaviors. Strategy calls for a change in behaviors, subsequently a change in beliefs. It is important to ensure that beliefs are aligned with the behaviors the new strategy calls for to create a change-enabling milieu.

About the author: Albert A. Vermeulen is the president of Arrow-head Management & Associates LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in driving the adoption of corporate strategies in collaboration with organizational leaders. He graduated from Purdue University and Stellenbosch University (South Africa).