Culture as a Competitive Advantage: Part 4

Building Your Competitive Advantage

Welcome back to our fourth and final installment on Culture as a Competitive Advantage. If you would like to review the previous parts of this series, you can find them here (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) or you can follow the links at the bottom of the article.

We left off last week with some examples of how an employee survey, designed using a company’s specific strategy, strengths, and weaknesses, can help identify gaps between your organization’s culture and that strategy.  While gathering this information is important, more important is to do something with it – and to keep the people whose input you requested informed of those plans.

The Operating Model below is a tool that Carnrite uses to assist leadership in deciding where to put its finite resources to address gaps and leverage strengths.


A company’s culture, and ultimately its competitive performance, is an outcome of how well these elements work together, as demonstrated by the decisions made and actions taken on each – structure, processes, resources, people strategy, leadership, decision making and performance management.

Continuing with Part 3’s examples – Control versus Empowerment and Proven Methods versus Innovation – there are multiple elements of the operating model that help close those gaps between current and desired culture. Specific actions will depend heavily on the gap itself and leadership’s priorities and willingness to change. Actions need to be prioritized based on the impact those changes will have on progress toward the aspired culture and contribution to the business objectives.

For example, to empower people more, reviewing and updating the Company’s decision rights or delegations of authority tools is a simple action for distributing and improving decision making speed, as well as providing an opportunity for staff to see their impact on those decisions. Changes to these tools can also create a trickle-down effect for teams across the company, decreasing what can be an unhelpful feeling of centralized control.

Moving towards a culture that values agility is a distinct challenge. There are times in an organization where detail and accuracy are paramount to success, indicating that the ways of working which have been successful previously should be used. Innovation, however, typically requires trying new methods and fast failure with quick response.  Addressing this gap may require leveraging the Process, Resources and Decision-Making elements of the Operating Model. A specific key action could be to review decision-making processes and its participants within and across the functions involved to identify value leakage and what may be inhibiting innovation.

Put together, the focus on the business, employee input, Cultural Continuums, and Operating Model actions will serve to align an organization’s culture with its strategy resulting in a more engaged workforce and improved business results.

Thanks for following along in our discussion on culture this month.  If you’d like to discuss how this can be leveraged in your organization please reach out to Doug Schlegel or a member of the Carnrite Team.

Culture as a Competitive Advantage, is written by:

Lindsey O’Kelley, Senior Consultant, and Doug Schlegel, Managing Director and Human Capital Lead.

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