The linkage between strategy and culture

Strategy asks leaders to make choices of how they will win in the medium and long term. The focus is on how to play to win fairly in a sustainable manner. If you are a football team, you want to win upcoming and future games as well as stay competitive in the next 3 to 5 years. That is called the short, medium and long term game. The same applies to your business or career. You want to be able to create and sustain value in the short, medium, and long term. You do not want to be a leader of a business that makes money today but is unable to be profitable, let alone sustain operations 5 years later. As a leader, you have must invest in resources and capabilities to sustain the value created over time.

On the other hand, culture fuels the spirit to win the current and upcoming game and the zeal with which each game is played. You are looking at the game with a tempo. That is why some players continue pushing even when they lose the ball to the opponents. For some teams, when they lose the ball, they just look on and wait for the pressure from the opponent. It is only the defenders shielding the pressure. The culture of feeling that I must go back and support other team members is special. This is what makes the difference between average and excellent organizations.

Strategy and culture must go together. The strategy lays the road map. Culture fuels the intent to start and complete the journey –   the zeal and focus to confront any unforeseen obstacle to progress. With strategy, you saying this is where we would like to be. And this is how we will get there. You might have the strategy written but will remain in the drawer because it may not speak to the values of the people.

People do not feel the way they should wake up early to come to work. When we were young, we would walk over 40 km from our village in Munteme to the nearby Lake Albert, in the rift valley. We always took a shorter route. At night, we would hear the sounds of dangerous animals. But we had been trained to keep moving. That habit of not turning back despite any obstacle or threat is the work of a right culture. In many organizations, some staff simply give up when confronted with small obstacles. It means their culture is weak. You cannot execute strategy if you don’t have the zeal to think quickly and keep moving with calculated risks.

It is the work of the right culture to ensure people do the right things. A weak culture reduces business growth and makes customers unhappy. You can not execute a strategy if you do not have the right culture.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr Strategy

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