Strategy, Structure then Culture

Culture is celebrated in successful organizations – as it should be. Corporate culture is ultimately the way you get things done; it’s the glue that holds an organization together and is often a big reason why people want to work with you.

An effective culture can be identified as one that gives its employees a shared sense of premise, purpose and promise: Who are we? What do we believe in? What inspires us? Where are we going? What will it look like when we get there? How great does it feel being a part of this?

A successful and meaningful culture doesn’t happen by accident or wishful thinking. It is, in every way, a designed application like any piece of software. An organization with an outstanding strategy will, more often than not, develop an outstanding culture. The key is the sequence of development…strategy, structure, and then culture.

Whimsy is the enemy of good culture. We want a culture of self-direction and independent action – one that embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of our founders. Huh?

Strategy needs to come first – structure comes second. What choices are we making in our path-to-market? Where can we add value to our relationships with trade partners and customers? How do we structure personnel functions to achieve this?

Once these building blocks are in place, culture is next for the successful organization. What is needed so we can work effectively together? How do we apply our collective intellect to solve complex problems? How can we share in the belief our combined effort exceeds the sum of the parts?

Once strategy and structure are in place, then passion can be fully focused. There are many great examples. Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry talks about these elements at the heart of the culture of Burberry:

  • Trust – the basis for all human relationships and where we derive our greatest strength and power. Trust is single-handedly the most powerful source of positive energy and once in place, unlocks a freedom and peace to explore.
  • Intuition – intuition is the wisdom formed by feeling and instincts – a gift of knowing without reasoning. Intuition teaches us to use our natural inclinations to protect the possibilities rather than simply accepting the probabilities.
  • Belief – ignited by hope and supported by facts and evidence, belief builds alignment and creates confidence. Belief is what sets energy in motion, and creates the success that breeds more success.

A good culture is vital to success. Jim Collins of Good to Great says, “Get the right people on the bus”. Angela Ahrendts’ favourite is a quote from poet Maya Angelou,

“People will forget what you did, they will forget what you said, but they will never forget the way you made them feel”.

Good words. All true. We only wish to add that your culture must support a strategy and structure that have been established by a clear purpose, unaffected by whimsy.

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