Culture as a Competitive Advantage: Part III

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

Welcome back to our deep dive into putting your culture to work for your business. If you haven’t had a chance to read Part I & Part II of this series, please do so. Part III is structured as a continuation of the conversation. Previously, we introduced examples where a stated culture differed from the aspired culture and began to explore solutions to create better alignment moving forward.

Cultural Continuums, developed using employee feedback, provide a simple and effective mechanism to articulate employees’ perceptions about what it is like to work in an organization (i.e., the culture). Results from well-designed culture surveys paint a clear picture of gaps between the current and aspired culture, as well as organizational strengths and weaknesses.

One common area of misalignment is Control versus Empowerment. Employees may indicate that while they feel they are able to provide insights and ideas to leadership during decision-making processes, they may not see tangible outcomes from sharing their ideas. They may also feel like they do not have sufficient authority to make decisions. Feeling unempowered can impact engagement while also causing bottlenecks and delays, risking an organization’s objectives.

A second example we see frequently is employee feedback indicating an eagerness to move from “the way things are done” to more innovative and agile ways of working. The ‘proven methods’ approach has a role in helping an organization manage risk and succeed, but it is important for leaders to engage employees to identify opportunities to streamline processes and systems, create new, innovative ways of working, and quickly “fail forward” within established guard rails to ensure the business is not put at risk. Empowering an organization to innovate can help an organization achieve its strategy.

Next week we will finish the conversation with examples of actions you can take to improve and/or ensure alignment between your company’s culture and strategy, as well as to make sure you’re utilizing your resources in the best way possible.

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