The Impact of Culture

Paul Curtis took the time out to write his thoughts on the impact culture can have on an organisation - see his article below;

Culture Impact

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In the 1980-90s a company’s culture was seen as an important element within the strategic planning framework.
Today however it’s seen as more tactical, not something to be lived, rather something to be planned and managed. Despite designed cultures rarely working, the subject of ‘Culture’ has become a low priority. In hindsight, this was a huge mistake.

Typically, an approach is adopted that best suits the company’s perceived needs i.e. develop a strategy that will keep you ahead of the completion and in favour with the customer base (assuming longevity is a desired outcome for the business). 

This thinking only relies on a critical assumption; that your strategy cannot be copied, or achieved faster by your competition.

Is it sound business practice to develop a winning strategy totally reliant on innovation (acquisition, products, service and cost) in a time where technology is growing exponentially? 

If one assumes everything can be copied, then differentiating yourself on the most difficult element to copy must become a critical success factor. Culture is extremely difficult to copy, it is even more difficult to achieve. 


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Is Strategy successful without an established culture?
With so much time invested in market research, consultancy support, communication forums, strategy workshops, deployment workshops etc., why do we still persevere with this obsession?

We are told it’s to; provide a clear plan of what the company needs to, give stakeholders/stock market confidence and provide clarity and guidance to the employees

Or is the truth . . . Sitting amongst all the bureaucracy ‘Strategy’ has just become the pursuance of just one metric ‘Winning’ where winning means generating big profits (irrespective of any social impact).

The development culture is dying and this action is producing the same results everywhere:

  • High flyers (promoted or recruited in) reduced to underperforming conformists
  • Fearful, anxious, bewildered and broken-down people trying to find meaning in their lives
  • People who want something to blame and blame everything that seems different
  • People who see the complexity but are marginalised amidst all the noise


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What can be done?
First stop looking for silver bullets. In 2003 a study was carried out by Harvard Business Review called the ‘Evergreen Project’. The aim of the research was to identify what differentiated the great companies from the others (criteria had been established to enable judging). 
The great companies excelled at four practices:

  1. Strategy - all companies within the research could evidence a strategy that was known by all employees not just a few
  2. Execution - flawlessly implementing the strategy
  3. Culture - having the right motivation and behaviours, including how good and poor performance was rewarded
  4. Structure - this equated to round pegs in round holes i.e. having the right people in the right jobs in the right organisation structure

The Evergreen Project established that without Culture the other three practices are not enough to achieve greatness. Culture can kill the performance of excellent people.

The conclusion we draw is that culture has become less important in the twenty first century. Peter Drucker once said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast". Perhaps it’s time to renew our thoughts on culture to ensure our strategies have a better chance of working.



Article written by Paul Curtis (August 2017)