In an ever-evolving business world, the role of culture in driving organizational success has become increasingly important. Today’s senior leaders understand that culture is not only intangible, but also a powerful concept that can make or break an organization. Given the far-reaching impact of culture, it is important to understand that building a robust culture is not a one-time project or an isolated initiative; it is an ongoing journey that requires constant attention and dedicated leadership. In this article, we will explore how culture shapes an organization’s destiny and how leadership approaches can harness the power of culture for sustainable growth and success.
The backbone of organizational strength, culture is much more than a collection of values, mission statements or slogans. It is the lifeblood of an organization, touching every aspect of its operations, from the way employees interact with each other to the way they interact with customers. Culture is a complex system and its strength lies in its weakest parts. In fact, if one piece of the cultural puzzle is missing or compromised, the entire system can collapse.
A robust culture is not just a nice to have; it is an absolute must. It affects not only the commitment of your employees to your brand promise, but also their retention, motivation and commitment to your organization’s goals. If culture is not given the attention it needs, if it is neglected, if it is allowed to deteriorate, you risk losing your most valuable asset – your people. This is a critical dynamic today, when attracting and retaining top talent is more difficult than ever.
Today, when the business world is undergoing a rapid transformation, traditional strategies have become ineffective. In this new world, culture no longer follows strategy; culture enables and enables strategy. Culture underpins organizational growth, shapes future performance and unlocks the potential for different strategic scenarios.
To maximize the potential of culture, senior leaders need to see it as an ongoing commitment, not a standalone project. This commitment includes changing patterns of play, implementing effective measurement systems, driving the culture conversation, and rallying middle managers around the cause. It also requires inspiring leadership that can take people places they might not otherwise go. Even if you have all the building blocks of a strong culture, if your leadership lacks the ability to inspire and guide, your culture will remain stagnant and underutilized.
Culture management requires being at the helm. It is critical that senior leaders take a proactive role in managing the culture of their organization. Research shows that only 20% of organizations are effectively managing their culture. The remaining 80% are at risk of having their culture shaped by forces beyond their control. If leaders do not have sufficient knowledge of the dynamics of organizational culture, the future of the organization, its sustainable success, is out of their control. The responsibility of culture management covers various aspects within the organization.
- Leadership: Leaders must be cultural champions who bring to life the values and behaviors they expect from their employees. Their role is to inspire, guide and direct cultural transformation.
- Workforce Engagement: Engaging employees is not just a matter of convenience; it is the cornerstone of a thriving culture, one of the “keys” to outstanding results. Dedicated and engaged employees will not only go the extra mile, but also convey a positive perception of the organization to their customers. Leaders must ensure that the workforce is fully committed to the brand promise and the goals of the organization.
- Middle Managers: Disgruntled middle managers can be a significant barrier to culture improvement. Leadership must actively engage middle managers in the culture transformation process and give them the tools to become advocates for the culture.
- Stakeholder Alignment: Alignment between key stakeholders such as company shareholders, unions, competitors, suppliers and customers is an important dynamic. Aligning interests with the cultural values of the organization can prevent friction and foster a cohesive culture.
Culture is not something that can be managed externally alone; it requires transformational leadership. Senior leaders need to provide structure and guidance on how to communicate culture. To communicate the essence of culture and make it more relatable to employees, it is necessary to reach out, connect, and create emotional touch points. A strong measurement system should also be in place to continuously monitor and analyze cultural progress.
It is inevitable that organizational culture is a dynamic phenomenon and needs to be continuously developed. In today’s business environment, it is important to keep in mind that effectively managing culture, the driving force behind organizational success, is an investment that leads to committed, highly motivated employees and ultimately sustainable growth and success. Culture shapes the destiny of an organization and underpins its performance. It is critical that senior leaders actively manage the process to harness the full potential of culture through transformational leadership approaches and transform it into a powerful, transformative force that will drive their organizations forward.