Culture: Ally or Obstacle to Strategy Execution?

1. When a company’s present work climate promotes attitudes and behaviors that are well suited to first-rate strategy execution, its culture functions as a valuable ally in the strategy execution process.

2. When the culture is in conflict with some aspect of the company’s direction, performance targets, or strategy, the culture becomes a stumbling block.

3. How Culture Can Promote Better Strategy Execution: A culture grounded in strategy-supportive values, practices, and behavioral norms adds significantly to the power and effectiveness of a company’s strategy execution effort. A tight culture-strategy alignment furthers a company’s strategy execution effort in two ways:

a. A culture that encourages actions supportive of good strategy execution not only provides company personnel with clear guidance regarding what behaviors and results constitute good job performance but also produces significant peer pressure from co-workers to conform to culturally acceptable norms
b. A culture embedded with values and behaviors that facilitate strategy execution promotes strong employee identification with and commitment to the company’s visions, performance targets, and strategy

CORE CONCEPT: Because culturally approved behavior thrives, while culturally disapproved behavior gets squashed and often penalized, a culture that supports and encourages the behaviors conducive to good strategy execution is a matter that merits full attention of company managers.

4. Closely aligning corporate culture with the requirements of proficient strategy execution merits the full attention of senior executives.

5. The Perils of Strategy-Culture Conflict: Conflicts between behaviors approved by the culture and behaviors needed for good strategy execution send mixed signals to organization members, forcing an undesirable choice.

6. When a company’s culture is out of sync with what is needed for strategic success, the culture has to be changed as rapidly as can be managed.

7. A sizable and prolonged strategy-culture conflict weakens and may even defeat managerial efforts to make the strategy work.