Strategy matters – sure. But without a winning culture to drive it forward, your strategy’s taking you nowhere.

An organization that excels without is strongly held from within. Its success is an outcome of strong leadership and employee efforts that do the right thing at the right time, instead of opting for what is easy and quick. The values that employees espouse and the behaviours they voluntarily exhibit create an environment that fosters growth. A global survey conducted by Bain & Co. to understand the significance of a winning culture revealed that 91% of senior executives (respondents) felt organizational culture was as important as business strategy for an organization to succeed. 81% agreed that a company without a winning culture was slated to fail. What then defines a winning organizational culture and what do leaders do to instill it? An organization with a stellar culture reveals two principal traits.

It has a unique personality and a soul. This essentially comes from its people holding on to similar beliefs and shared values, and taking pride in the company’s heritage and achievements. The Toyota culture, for instance, extols quality and cost-efficiency; its workforce identifies with and
embodies the same principles. The norms and practices that reflect the organization’s unique personality end up translating into customer-focused actions and increased bottomline growth. Companies with winning cultures execute strategies better, with employees showing their
willingness for action, taking initiative and ownership. Transitioning to a new culture calls for destroying old habitual behaviours that may have ossified the organizational practices and proactively replacing with new systems and practices. This may not be easy to achieve, but the more difficult part is to sustain the changes achieved – especially in the face of sudden unforeseen threats from the marketplace. Crises can also be a catalyst for change – breaking down effete systems and ringing in a high-performance culture. Thrown a curveball in the form of new regulations, changes in the economy, new competitors, or disrupting technologies a company may get its acts together and take a leap of faith. So how does an organization get its transformation act together?
The following are proven steps that work.
a. Performing a culture audit: It helps to identify and pin down the elements that are unique to Aidias® Consulting Group-affiliating with businesses to help them grow profitably® through-Research-Strategy-Training the heritage of the company – its strengths, the shortcomings, even what could be missing! One-on-one conversations with employees as well as organization-wide surveys are both effective in generating deep insights about the current culture of an organization. Revisiting the founder’s
dreams or reconsidering the mission-and-vision statements could bring to light the core values of a culture. Similarly, probing the shortfalls could reveal what’s holding the company back from achieving greatness. In essence, it is always a good idea to initiate the transformation journey
with increased self-awareness.
b. Aligning the management team: Difficult and considerably unpleasant as it may be, this step calls for assessing members of the management team to understand how each embodies the new culture and how likely is each to break down old habits, embrace new ones, and build on them. It
is important to distinguish the actual change agents from the passive ones, and also replace a few cultural saboteurs for the new culture to entrench itself and flourish. The CEO or leaders driving the change must also provide periodic feedback so that the members exhibit the right behaviour and alignment (to business goals) issues, if any, are duly addressed.
c. Focusing on results: It goes without saying culture isn’t the end but the means to an end. It provides the launch-pad for the company’s strategic agenda to take off, and serve as the fertile grounds for the time, effort, and cost investments to bear fruit. Leaders must set clear targets,
communicate expectations unambiguously, and monitor each milestone crossed. Simply put, superior culture fosters and drives good business.
d. Managing the drivers of change: It may seem paradoxical that culture, essentially a soft notion, calls for strong decision-making, enforcing hard discipline, and relentlessly driving business results. However, culture transformation demands that these elements be aligned with the strategic direction.
e. Communicating and celebrating: The transformation journey is long and arduous, often fraught with setbacks and phases of uncertainty. However, sustained communication from leaders is a must to ensure that the organization stays the course, employees’ commitment and motivation levels remain steadfast, and customer perception remains positive. People do feel excited about the future and want to get there, but they must be rewarded for making progress towards it. An organization can have a great strategy in place, but the culture and the enabling systems must be amenable to effective implementation of the strategy. Else culture will defeat the strategy. Culture comes alive with action. The role of ringing in, driving, managing, and sustaining change will depend largely on the efficiencies and effectiveness of the leaders. It is for them to walk the talk, cultivate a culture of confidence, collaboration, and accountability, and eventually leave Aidias® Consulting Group-affiliating with businesses to help them grow profitably® through-Research-Strategy-Training behind an enduring legacy for the next generation of leaders.
Based on Harvard Business Review OnPoint South Asia February – July 2014, ‘Creating and
Sustaining a Winning Culture’ by Paul Meehan, regional managing director of Bain & Company’s
EMEA operations, Darrell Rigby, Bain partner in Boston, and Paul Rogers, managing partner of
Bain’s London office.
Written by Aidias Consulting Group

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