You may have already heard of the famous quote “culture eats strategy for lunch”. In my experience, that’s absolutely true in the context of a strategy thatdoesn’t take into account the corporate culture. Any strategy has a large chance of failure, noncompliance or even sabotage, if it isn’t clearly aligned with the culture of the organization.
Understanding an organization’s corporate culture and making provisions for it, at both a strategic and tactical level, is how you diminish any chance of not achieving the desired results.
Two companies meet for a reference visit. The first company is a young entrepreneurial non-unionized service company growing at a 30-50% rate. The second company is hosting a well-entrenched unionized blue chip telecommunication firm. The Blue Chip Corp’s executives sit in with some of the service company’s young planners to watch a demonstration of dispatch software. The executives from the Blue Chip Corp are blown away by the young dispatch team’s knowledge, speed and efficiency in utilizing the software. Impressed with what she sees, a VP from Blue Chip asks the young planner whose work they were admiring “how long have you been working with this software”? The young planner without hesitation tells the executive: “this is my third day here and I have been working on this system the better part of two days”. The VP looks around at her colleagues and says “that would never happen here at Blue Chip”.
The Situational Analysis
The culture of the organization was not lost on the VP who understood the reality that the Service Company’s culture and evolution led to them employing young people who have grown up in the Smartphone and Facebook era. With no fear of technology, no phobias about making mistakes and an adoptive nature, their workforce can readily pick up something new and run with it.
In contrast to the young Service Company, the strategy for Blue Chip moving forward needs to take into account its corporate culture and consider that its aging workforce would have to be won over slowly and cautiously in order to accept and adopt new technologies. The common reality in established businesses is that ingrained processes are hard to change, regardless of whether they are good, bad or just downright ugly! Unions have to be dealt with and change management procedures have to be well entrenched in the core of any strategy.
“We do it this way”, “we have always done it this way”, “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken”, “I know what’s best”, are all attitudes that reside in the Blue Chip organization. The reality of the Blue Chip’s culture is that although it may not be looking at youthful adoption of technologies, it relies on a much deeper understanding of its business, the challenges associated with delivering high quality service and the intricacies of managing one of the largest field service organizations in North America.
If the Blue Chip executives make the decision to implement the showcased dispatch software, their plan must account for many of these observed cultural differences. Not all their planning and dispatch employees will pick up the new software after only two days of training. Many of their staff will require further guidance & more context relevant to how the software impacts their ability to continue to deliver world class service. They will need a change management strategy, which will not only adapt their operating process from current to future state, but that will also adapt their corporate culture from current to future state.
It’s not easy, but necessary…
Implementing cultural change is not simple. It involves re-shaping people’s values, core beliefs and behavior that have been rooted into them over many years. This is a major change management challenge, taking a great deal of time and hard work from all involved. Yet understanding, measuring, analyzing and working within the existing culture is necessary in order to ensure that change management programs are successful in supporting adjustments in strategic direction. A well thought out plan that combines the present and future requirements of the corporate culture within the strategic initiatives goes a long way towards making a program successful and much less laborious.