How Strategic Is Your Company Culture? Strategic Culture & Why You Need It.
“Strategic culture” is not merely a catchy phrase to drop in a business meeting. It’s actually a very powerful concept that can help you think through what your company values and what that means for your internal strategy.
Brandon Smith, also known as the Workplace Therapist, spoke about this topic at a CultureIQ event earlier this year, and everyone walked away wanting to learn more. We wanted to help you do just that, so we reached out to continue the conversation with him.
The Recipe for a Strategic Culture
At CultureIQ, we define culture as how things get done in an organization. Brandon expands on that by offering two questions to help you approach your company’s culture: Who we are (identity) and How we operate (operations, execution).
Given that definition, it’s clear that all companies have a culture (whether you like it or not…), but not all companies have a strategic culture. To find what would be a strategic culture for their company, leaders have to identify the values of leaders, employees, and customers. A strategic culture is where these overlap.
Brandon explains what these different value circles represent:
Leaders’ values: “This captures what the senior leadership team really values. I would qualify that by saying not just as a leader, but as a person. You can’t decouple personal and work values. Your workplace values are very similar to personal values.”
Employees’ values: “Think specifically of what your rockstar employees value. That is, if you have to segment employees, consider the ones you wish you could have more of and what they value? It’s important because you want to cultivate a team that fosters the kind of culture you want to create.”
Customers’ values: “This is the piece that often gets overlooked, customer values. What matters to them? It’s what makes culture, strategic. You can have a culture that was strategic once, but when your customers’ values change, it doesn’t work anymore and you have to change it. They’re important because they drive business strategy.”
When you combine these elements, your culture strategy is aligned with your business strategy and outcomes:
“Essentially culture is going to do two things for you; first, it’s going to dictate the kind of strategies you can execute on. If you don’t have the right culture, it doesn’t matter if you have the right strategy— you won’t be able to execute on it. Second, it also should align with what your marketplace looks like,” explained Brandon.
“If you have the right culture, your customers will be loyal and will keep going to you. If you have the wrong culture, you’re going to lose them, and then they’re going to have to compete on price—and no leader wants their organization to compete on price.”
Making Culture a Leadership Topic
Who you are, how you operate, and how you execute on delivering for your customers are not only culture considerations, they are the core of your business. Thus, if you’re approaching culture in a strategic way, culture cannot be siloed as an HR topic.
“Leaders put culture in the bucket of HR. Culture is not HR. HR has a piece of it, but they don’t own it—it’s owned by leadership, as it’s more operational,” shares Brandon. “They [HR] run an important function of culture, as they handle recruiting, compensation, and those are all important aspects. However, it’s the leader who dictates what the culture is going to look like, and HR has a piece in executing on that.”
Owning YOUR Strategic Culture
As we’ve mentioned previously, culture is not one-size-fits-all. Strategic culture is the reason why companies within the same marketplace have distinct and unique cultures.
Consider your own culture for a minute: What are the values of your leadership, employees, and customers? What does this mean for how you are making decisions and operating? How does this compare to how you are currently operating?
These are the questions you need to ask yourself to understand what a strategic culture looks like in your organization and where the gaps are in achieving it. Sometimes your business strategy and culture can feel at odds, but asking the right questions can help align the two so that everyone is speaking the same language and working towards the same thing. Sounds simple, right?
CultureIQ partners with clients to help them work through this process, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s what we’re here for. Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.