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How Culture Drives Strategy…Drives Culture

Resistance to change, silo thinking, lack of leadership, poor communication, lack of accountability, inability to measure impact, focus on short term results – they all stem from company culture. And in Pearl Zhu’s opinion, company culture always starts at the top, with senior leadership and their concurrent strategies. In her Future of CIO blog, Zhu explores the relationship between the corporate dipoles of strategy and culture. Where to begin?

Culture & Risk

Discussions about risk inevitably revolve around complexity and chaos, and nothing is as unpredictable or impenetrable as culture. It’s not as if management can flip a switch and suddenly adjust the behavior of vast groups of people…or can they?

In…conversations about culture, keep in mind that it is the policies, procedures, rewards and retributions that drive behavior and [that]it is…employee behavior that expresses “culture,”

Strategy & Culture

That leads us to our discussion about strategy, which often boils down to a lot of fancy theory with no actual impact on the culture of the organization. Effective strategy is all about execution:

…although you can’t impose the desired culture on your organization, surely you can follow the principles and mechanism to transform your culture, and [can]make continuous improvements…as a catalyzer to execute strategy seamlessly.

A culture of professionalism and innovation is one that encourages employees to think outside of their comfort zones, to get involved in company strategy. Another aspect of culture is that it is a unified experience for all members, and therefore a piecemeal strategy is inadequate to shift employee practices on the ground. It sounds here again like we’re discussing two aspects of the same thing, and we are, because on the flip side of the coin, a culture without execution harbors no positive growth or behavior to match the company’s vision.

In a sense, strategy and culture really are two ends of the same process. Without strategy, culture is simply self-serving and its members do not accomplish the goals of the business. Strategy without the right culture is naught more than a lot of planning and hot air being directed at no one in particular (at least no one who is going to be accountable to follow up on plans and objectives).

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI’s Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master’s degree in communications at Penn State University.

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