Culture as a Competitive Advantage: Part II

August 2021 – By: Lindsey O’Kelley, with Contributions from Doug Schlegel

Welcome back to our discussion on ensuring your culture is aligned with – and adding value to – your business objectives. This week’s discussion focuses on assessing your current culture and the importance of knowing what it is really like to work at your company.

It is common for organizations to lack a clear picture on how their people feel about the stated or aspired organizational culture, or whether what is stated (the talk) aligns to how things actually work (the walk). A lack of clarity in this space can create a disconnect between leadership teams and their employees, as well as across entire employee groups. This is particularly true following any significant organizational change, including portfolio changes, mergers and acquisitions, leadership changes, new strategies, or financial challenges.

For example, a Carnrite client experienced rapid growth in 2020, impressively completing a major acquisition during COVID-19 while all employees worked remotely. The acquisition doubled staffing levels in one of the company’s business units, providing a natural point to pause and take stock of where the company stood culturally and assess how well employee perspectives aligned with leadership’s vision for the company. Leadership, with our support, decided to engage the workshop and gather employee feedback via structured interviews. The interview findings were later used to build a survey focused on the topics most relevant to the organization’s strategic intentions, values, and priorities.

The objective of garnering this feedback is to identify the most impactful themes to explore rather than acting only on surface level issues that will fade quickly.  We call these themes “Cultural Continuums”.  There are typically six or seven key themes which bring to light an organization’s specific strengths, pain points, and gaps between current and aspired ways of operating. For example, employees may indicate their organization exercises more control than what is needed to deliver desired results. Alternatively, employees may perceive that organizations prioritize the status quo over supporting innovation.

These Continuum results provide valuable directional insight, helping to identify strengths and specific areas where better alignment is needed. In Part III we will dig into culture and strategy alignment and provide specific examples of how misalignment between the two can affect day-to-day results.

Join our newsletter to learn more about our business and the innovative ways we’re partnering with our clients.