Culture as a Competitive Advantage: Part IV

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

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 I, Part II, and Part III).

We left off last week with some examples of how an employee survey, designed using a company’s specific strategy, strengths, and weaknesses, can be used to identify gaps between your organization’s culture and strategy. While gathering this information is in and of itself important, it is even 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.

We’ll continue with the examples we presented previously – Control versus Empowerment and Proven Methods versus Innovation. Multiple elements of the Operating Model can be adjusted to close the gaps between current and desired culture. Specific actions will depend heavily on the gap itself, as well as leadership’s priorities and willingness to change. Actions must be prioritized based on the impact those changes will have on business objectives and movement toward the aspired culture.

For example, to empower people, reviewing and updating the Company’s decision rights or delegations of authority are simple actions to distribute decision making and increase the speed at which decisions get made. These adjustments may also offer opportunities for staff to directly see their impact on business 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, making it challenging to abandon or evolve existing ways of working. Innovation, however, typically requires organization to adopt new methods and embrace a “fast failure” mentality.  Movement to a more agile, innovative culture may require you to address every dimension of the Operating Model. A specific key action could be to review decision-making processes and the participants involved in major types of decisions to identify value leakage and inhibitors to innovation.

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

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