If your organization has not aligned its culture to its strategic focus, meeting goals and fulfilling potential is likely to be tough. Unfortunately, few leaders have figured this out or know how to do it effectively.
Step One: To be at the top of your game, determine how you will compete in the market place. I call this “your strategic focus.” Examples include:
- Innovation and product leadership (e.g., Nike, Google)
- Operational excellence and best total cost (e.g., Wal-Mart, Best Buy)
- Customer service (e.g., The Four Seasons Hotel)
- Best customized solutions for a particular market segment (e.g., McKinsey, IBM)
Step Two: Your focus should be driven by your organizational culture – leadership practices, policies, performance metrics, rewards, reporting relationships, and employee behaviors. Truly successful companies hard-wire their culture to support and enable their strategic focus.
Recently, I had an opportunity to work with a large hotel chain that had wanted to improve performance. They had spent millions on renovating each of their key properties. The CEO then invited meeting planners and other professionals to spend a weekend at one of these newly-renovated properties, hoping to draw their business. Sadly, while they had updated their properties, they hadn’t aligned their culture with their strategic focus, so here’s what happened…or didn’t happen:
- The Hotel General Manager did not stop by to welcome the guests
- The Director of Sales and his family placed themselves ahead of the customers on a tour of the lake while the guests had to wait 30 minutes for his return
- A number of the room gifts were delivered to the wrong rooms
- Logistics regarding arrivals and departures were cumbersome and slow
Not only was the fiscal investment wasted on the renovations, but they lost many potential customers. Bottom line, the chain’s culture was not hard-wired for creating a great service experience … which is where the real investment should have been made.
Obvious you say? I’ll bet that if you asked your top 10 managers: (1) what is our strategic focus? and (2) what are the specific organizational behaviors, practices and processes that should make up our cultural framework, you’ll get 10 different answers!
To be an industry leader, like Apple or Nike or Google, your organizational culture — everything about your organization — should be designed to fulfill its strategic focus.