Integrating Culture with Strategy

Integrating Culture with Strategy

Of Breakfast and Elephants Dancing

While setting goals for this year, business owners have been highly inclined towards innovation. Even as technology advances with manic speed, there has been a pause and reflect attitude towards employee welfare and organization culture. Enterprises passionate about innovation are willing to explore new mechanisms of collaboration of both strategy and culture. In reality, culture and strategy interact, and in ideal scenarios, they mutually reinforce each other. Each company differs in their approach to harness the best from each, or put one before another. While Ford’s bounce back story soundly exemplified Peter Drucker’s famous remark, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”, IBM’s Louis V. Gerstner Jr. had a different tale to tell with his book “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?.” “People don’t do what you expect but what you inspect,” was what Gerstner believed and hence devised a new methodology to measure results. The realization he brought in within a crumbling enterprise, was that employees were not competing internally (because of the diversity of IBM products), but with competitors outside. He leveraged on IBM’s unique competitive advantage of integrating its various computing technologies rather than allowing them to branch out as separate identities or brands. Furthermore, Gerstner tied employee compensation to the performance of the whole company rather than to the employee’s particular division. Every employee was liable to make personal business commitments to uphold the IBM umbrella of a larger business commitment. Performance was measured and tied in with their salary. This strategy streamlined the workforce towards a responsible pace and established the parameters of job security within IBM. Gerstner proved to be a fearless leader and visionary, who strove to change culture and strategy both.

Seizing Innovation

Currently outgoing Ford CEO Alan Mulally has been widely hailed as one of the best CEOs of his generation. He took over Ford in 2006 and converted reported multibillion dollar losses into five successive years of annual profits. According to Mulally, the turnaround was not about top management or their brilliant strategy. It was about collaborating with every employee on the vision of the company and making them feel their job is supported and safe as they bought into the plan. Nurturing employees and clear respect for the brand gave birth to “Ford One”, which has been one of the two credos for seizing innovation, the other being “Enrich Lives” by Apple. Permeating Business Excellence These were just two examples of culture vs. strategy, where changed leadership evoked the biggest turnarounds of the past decade. Businesses are human and economic edifices and it is difficult to conclude one aspect is better over another. Even greater elements to rely on for a business to succeed would be performance and quality of human capital. Measuring performance to the highest degree of quality possible for a given task is what business excellence aspires to achieve. Business Excellence is applied across functional areas in an enterprise including strategy, business practices and stakeholder related performance results. Business Excellence models guide organizations towards sustainable world class results.

Collect, Corroborate and Collaborate Innovation

Business Excellence teams are set up to improve existing processes, increase turnaround time, so innovation and ideas are born to take the profit trajectory upwards. Business owners and their management need to be open to the scope of internal ideas that can support an overall business growth. All that is required is a platform that collectscorroborates and collaborates this new thinking, alongside lending credibility and recognition to the employees who suggest better processes or planning. PeopleWorks is introducing one such platform as part of their Human Capital Management solution. Idea Works is a novel concept designed to motivate employees and channelize their appropriate inputs towards continued improvement. Idea Works integrates into business excellence support for SMEs. The following features are offered in this module:

  • Mechanism to input, upload and track ideas by individual employees
  • Idea flow from employee >> mentor >> coordinator >> team
  • Validation, approval and rating data availability of the idea
  • Tracking flow by stakeholders concerned
  • Replacement of tedious chain emails with a one point online flow of application, tracking and interaction
  • Ensuring all communication is in a loop and there is a repository of ideas that can be reviewed by both management and HR

Out-of-the-box ideas are needed to wake up business strategies altogether from a complacent slumber. By adopting a platform that promotes ideas for larger shifts to happen, a company invites, recognizes and stimulates its employees. Employees like to feel as if they are part of a trusting culture where they are safe to share their ideas and valued for their perspective. As a result, engagement and retention rates are higher, which in turn is a cost saving reflex. With a strategy of encouraging and nurturing innovation from within the organization, CXOs can avoid external consultancy costs as well. A well defined culture and a business strategy pliant with human understanding can merge and lead a company along an uninterrupted growth curve for their business. In the words of Lisa Jackson, a corporate culture expert and co-author , “Culture, like a good strategy, must clearly define how success will be measured, include a process to engage many people early and often, and rely on data and facts, versus intuition or vaguely defined actions”.