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How Much Does Culture Enjoy Eating Strategy For Breakfast?

A leader needs to ensure that the following ‘building block (ABCD) of an enabling work culture’ is prevalent across his/her Organization

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Company culture is often described as the personality of a company. While some management experts prefer to call it the backbone of a happy workforce or the glue which keeps a company together, it can also be compared to that of a ‘compass’ which keeps a company’s strategy well on its course. Ever since Peter Drucker, Father of Modern Management theory, coined the phrase “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”, there has been a lot of debate in the corporate boardroom on what needs more focus – culture or strategy. However, reports on hyper-job-hopping witnessed among Gen Z and some high-profile exits due to sexual misconduct allegations, only allude to the fact that culture has a voracious appetite, and in particular, is fond of devouring ‘strategy’ which is cooked in a toxic oil of ‘constraining behaviours and beliefs’.

A research by Deloitte states, that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. One of the major benefits of instilling an enabling work culture is the creation of a happy workforce; a happy workforce in turn collaborates well internally, which leads to lesser value-stream mapping (VSM), fewer line stoppages and greater output. This output then automatically translates into better customer service and improved sales figures. Moreover, an enabling work culture is akin to a powerful magnet, which can attract the best talent from a world-wide talent pool – after all, the creative types thrive working only in an empowering atmosphere – and the creative types are the ones who accelerate the quick execution of the business strategy.

Companies like Google, Southwest Airlines and Twitter are a shining example of an enabling culture which effortlessly woo potential employees to their workspace – and they achieve this by not merely sporting a trendy or themed work environment but also by paying close attention to their company culture all around their Organization. The challenge faced by many Organizations these days is not that their culture is “too good” or “very bad” – it is simply having a culture which is inconsistent and incoherent. And, to achieve consistency, a Leader needs to ensure that the following ‘building block (ABCD) of an enabling work culture’ is prevalent across his/her Organization.

Agility: How fast do you take decisions – do you reward your outstanding employees on an ad-hoc basis and grant out-of-cycle promotions instead of making them wait until the end of the appraisal cycle? How easy it is for your employees to switch to a different role or work location within your Organization? How much of your work is accomplished using latest cutting edge technologies and to what extent are your internal processes automated?

Branding: How well do you communicate – do you share your business strategy or the revenue earnings of your last quarter through a mass mailer instead of communicating it through a town hall meeting? How accessible is your senior management – are they available for an instant coffee-meet or for a quick basketball game while the sun goes down? Do you have an open forum, where your employees can safely share their grievances and suggestions?

Collaboration: How effectively do you brainstorm – do you include all your team members in your team meeting and encourage each and every one to share their opinion? Does your offshore team get to participate in important client meetings instead of being ordered to work like foot soldiers by their on-shore counterparts? Do you value presence more than performance by urging your team members to physically work alongside you all the time instead of providing that occasional flexibility, where they can choose their time and location of work?

Diversity: How colorful is your team demographics – is the mother tongue of all your team members the same? Do the male employees in your team represent more than 70% of the total team population? Do you feel uncomfortable when one of your team member voices a contrasting viewpoint? Does your team work round the clock without the occasional fun or smile on their face?

(If you answer the last four questions in the affirmative, then most probably your business strategy is under attack by your company culture)

As companies scramble to finalize their annual budget, it is high time for any company which is concerned with their brand image and bottom line, to allot a crucial portion of their budget in building and nourishing their company culture. Research by Harvard Business school professors James L Heskett and John Kotter found companies with “performance enhancing cultures” had average revenue growth four times higher than firms with poor culture. So, what kind of work culture exists in your company – is it toxic or enabling? Your Chief Cultural Officer (yes, you need to appoint one, if you are serious) to begin with can ascertain the prevailing culture within your Organization by initiating a quick survey. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Billy Paul Ebenezer

The author is a Consultant – Learning & Development at Wipro Limited

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