Is it time for a culture evolution?

During the last few months when business plans have had to bend and flex to cope with pandemic induced disruption, work environments have also transformed. A big disruption like the one we are experiencing will have had an impact on your company culture – even if your business model has not changed. And more than this, it should cause you to question if your existing culture is the right style to get you through the next few years.

Strategy is the plan to achieve your business goals. Culture expresses your goals through values to guide behaviour.

We know that culture impacts the outcomes of your business because it’s explicitly linked to behaviour. When aligned with strategy and leadership, a strong culture drives business performance. But, if your business strategy has been disrupted or you have reshaped your business goals, your culture may need to evolve also. What worked in the past may no longer work in the future and that’s why it’s so important to have a process in place to manage your culture.

What is your culture style?

HBR recently shared a great resource to help define culture. It’s based on understanding where a business sits in terms of how people interact (are they independent or interdependent?) and how people respond to change (are they flexible and responsive or stable and consistent?). Knowing where your business and leaders sit on this grid is important. It creates a picture to help understand if culture is aligned to strategy or if there are any misalignments. Take a look at the grid below, where do you think you sit? Do other team members share your view?

Source: HBR (2018) The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture

  • Caring – warm, sincere, relational
  • Purpose – purpose driven, idealistic, tolerant
  • Learning – open, inventive, exploring
  • Enjoyment – playful, instinctive, fun loving
  • Results – achievement, goal-driven, focused
  • Authority – bold, decisive, dominant
  • Safety – realistic, careful, prepared
  • Order – rule abiding, respectful, cooperative

When multiple cultures are at play.

There can be multiple styles at play at once. For example, you may be both purpose-driven and caring or have a results-focus and decisive authoritative culture. Multiple culture styles are ok, if they work together. But if you have multiple cultures at play that are at cross purposes or misaligned with your strategy, your performance will be affected. By being aware of the multiple cultures in your business you can see if and when change is required.

Culture, leadership and strategy misalignment is a liability.

Evolving your culture – driving performance

You can improve your business performance through careful culture management and if needed cultural change so that it drives performance and becomes a source of sustainable competitive advantage. The first step is to understand the style of culture currently at play in your business. Ask yourself, does it align with current and future business conditions and strategy? For example, with remote working trends likely to continue, do you need to create more independence in your teams (results and enjoyment style culture)? To cope with rapidly changing business environments, do you need to incorporate a more agile and flexible style (purpose and learning)? Now is the time to take a sense check on your culture and create a working environment that helps you go well into your everyday and grow well into your future.

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Operating with uncertainty

We’ve all been here before, a little too recently. 2020 taught us how to set up our offices at home and made a lot of us proficient at Zoom calls. But, even with the familiarity, there’s a little Delta variant tension creeping in, with uncertainty over when exactly this lockdown will end.


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