Sunday, 18 October 2015

How corporate culture supports strategy execution

It is an axiomatic fact that strategy execution and corporate culture play a remarkable role in the attainment of organizational success. From the chronological point of view, it can be argued that the significance of corporate culture emerges in between strategy formulation and strategy execution. Organizational strategy can be in fact properly developed on paper, but whether this is not also appropriately executed with great or sufficient precision it is hardly imaginable that an employer might ever be able to successfully point in the right direction and achieve its scope, that is to say successfully pursue its intended strategy. The most effective and appropriate KPI to asses corporate culture can be hence identified with its capability to support organizational strategy and more in particular its consistent and successful execution.

 Table 1

The values, beliefs, behaviour and “the way we do things around here” fostered within a business by an employer in that considered crucial to the attainment of its objectives clearly vary from organization to organization. The fact each company has a different corporate culture peculiar to this and only this should indeed represent the distinctive characteristic of each organization, somewhat of its DNA. In the unlikely event of two or more organizations fostering exactly the same type of culture, nonetheless, even remarkable differences between these are likely to emerge by reason of its different execution.

It can be very pragmatically concluded that the efficacy of corporate culture sorely depends on how helpful and supportive this proves to be of strategy execution. To be deemed appropriate and coherent with the employer’s wants and expectations an organization’s culture essentially needs to ease and favour the effectual strategy implementation process.

Every business founder concentrates and focuses his/her efforts on fostering and promoting a type of culture peculiar to his/her organization so as to enabling this to achieve competitive advantage. Notwithstanding, it can be identified some features and components, which whether properly underpin corporate culture, should contribute to considerably increase employers chances to successfully implement their strategy.

Table 2

Readiness to change
The speed change occurs in the exogenous environment habitually requires employers to introduce changes into their organizations at the same pace. The fact that employees may oppose and resist change, albeit this is necessary for their organization to stay afloat and remain competitive in the relevant market, and the delay in its implementation this habitually entails are likely to have a remarkably negative impact on strategy implementation.
Individual readiness to change should be hence considered as one of the main underpinning pillars of corporate culture and should be invariably inspired by concepts like dynamism, energy, adaptability and innovation. The metaphor of the organization as a chameleon might prove to be effective to properly convey the message. This species of lizards has adapted to live in trees and developed the ability to change the colour of their skin to match their surroundings and escape predators’ attention (though this theory has been relatively recently opposed by some scientists who sustain that the change of the colour of their skin is rather used by these reptiles to communicate and control their body temperature). Since for modern organizations gaining and maintaining competitive edge is crucially important, as chameleons these should aim at constantly growing throughout their lives. Being informed of what occurs in the external environment and about their competitors’ moves is clearly of pivotal importance, too; as chameleons, hence, organizations should be able to simultaneously look at two different directions with a 360-degree view and promptly focus on what they see.

Organizational culture cannot and should be not, nonetheless, only based on a defensive and adaptive approach; employers should attach great importance to their employee capability to come up with new ideas, develop new approaches and anticipate future trends, and should thus encourage everyone within the business to contribute in this sense. Innovation must be hence invariably regarded by employers as an additional important pillar of their organization culture; the most appropriate metaphor organizations can use to convey the message might hence be that of the innovative chameleon.
Clarify and spell out the intended objectives
Individuals are habitually willing and in many respects keen to accept and genuinely embrace change whether these understand and recognize the need for its introduction and the benefits it is intended to bring. Making clear what the reasons for change are and why this is actually necessary for the organization to maintain or expand its presence in the market would clearly help an employer to gain its employees’ support and active participation during the processes of change and strategy execution.
The direction identified by a company should enable this and its people to achieve success and in turn secure employees job stability. The circumstance strategy is implemented and change is eventually introduced to support the process, essentially with the aim of deriving a benefit to the organization, regardless of which this might be, has to be clearly outlined and explained to employees from the outset. It is indeed absolutely necessary that these become fully aware of the positive implications associated with the introduction of change and of how significant their support is in order for their employer to successfully pursue its intended strategy.
Employers must invariably avert talking the talk and do not walking the walk; employees would sooner or later find out whether these have supported their decisions with deceitful arguments and should such circumstance occur the consequences would definitely be disastrous and more often than not irreversible. First and foremost, employers need to gain their employees trust and confidence, which can definitely be regarded as a key prerequisite to establish an effective communication channel with individuals. Openness, transparency and trust should be thus invariably considered as features strongly characterizing corporate culture, but clearly not exclusively “on paper.”
Communication is of paramount importance more than usual; it essentially represents the only means enabling employers to provide employees a clear-sighted vision. All of the individuals composing the employee population need to have crystal clear ideas of the strategy identified by their employer, should gain a good understanding of how it can enable the organization to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage and thus genuinely back this. The establishment of an open, two-way communication channel can clearly facilitate the process.

Corporate culture, consistently with the aim of inspiring, building up and winning employee confidence and trust, should promote a transparent, honest communication ensuring employees to have their say. The aim of communications should not be hence limited to unveil and share with all the employees the plan of action developed by the employer, but should rather aim at enabling the employer to involve and bring on board all of its employees. Corporate culture should encourage employee continuous contribution and active participation, and encourage employees to continuously come up with and suggest new ideas.

Every individual should feel to be active part of the process and commit his/her contribution to the overall outcome produced by the organization as a whole.
In order for employees to actively become part of the process these have to be first and foremost put in a position to effectively contribute to organizational success. Involving in the pursuance of organizational strategy individuals who do not have the skills and capabilities required, would clearly produce counterproductive effects. Inasmuch as corporate culture needs to foster individual participation, commitment and contribution to organizational success, this has to encourage individual learning. Employers should thus invariably ensure and secure their employees to have access to the programmes enabling them to gain and expand the capabilities and knowledge necessary to effectually play their role.

A skilled employee population may indeed help employers to reverse the trend in terms of change in that knowledgeable and capable individuals may actually come up with new, ingenious ideas anticipating external pressures and proposing change from within. This circumstance would certainly be ideal, change would not be in fact imposed by others, but proposed by employees, which would thus perfectly know the benefits associated with its introduction and would instantly and naturally become change advocates.

The same result in terms of employee participation should be indeed ideally achieved also in those circumstances in which change is proposed by employers by reason of the pressure exerted by the exogenous environment. Involving employees in the project from the outset and establishing an appropriate two-way communication channel should definitely help employers to successfully perform the feat.
It can be contended that the old saying “money talks” still definitely holds true. Irrespective of the awareness managers may or may not have, the decisions they make in terms of reward clearly communicate and convey a precise message to employees, a message which individuals more often than not receive clearly and promptly. Whether corporate culture fosters individual participation and involvement, and some individuals behave as desired by the employer and yield the expected results, these need to be openly recognized. The introduction of this mechanism not only reinforces the importance of concepts like consistency and integrity within the business, but may also help employers to sustain and consolidate corporate culture and the tenets underpinning this.

Organizational culture should obviously foster individual commitment and participation, but it should also promote at the same time the employer willingness and readiness to recognize those who support the business in its quest to pursue its intended strategy and attain the desired objectives.
HRM Model
Consistency should be showed at all the organizational levels and layers, corporate culture should be thus consistent also with the HRM model adopted by the employer. It is not indeed just a matter of consistency; the HR management model underpinning the organization human capital practices should also noticeably support and sustain a company culture in that this is also essentially concerned with favouring and easing the attainment of the employer desired objectives.
Management commitment
Individuals will never commit to support their employer and let alone try to go the extra mile whether the organization management does not lead by example. The management commitment has hence to be gained from the very beginning and has to be sorely visible.

The role played by mangers in developing and shaping organizational culture is clearly much more than simply considerable. They have the responsibility to provide employees with a vision, support individuals during their working activities and make decisions about individual growth and hence future.

Mangers can definitely make or break corporate culture so that before appointing a new manager employers should definitely ensure that these have what it takes to properly perform their role and genuinely and truly support the organization strategy and culture. The findings of many studies reveal that bad management is indeed one of the most recurring causes for employees leaving their organization. Notwithstanding, managers are appointed by employers so that the responsibility for individuals leaving their organization ultimately rests with them. The circumstance an organization appoints the wrong person to fill the wrong position has to be essentially regarded as an employer blunder and whether after having made such a huge mistake employers do not take appropriate action it is likely that these will be called to pay for it anytime soon.
The great significance of organizational culture for strategy implementation and thus organizational success can be taken as axiomatic. The type of culture fostered by a company founder should be first of all consistent with and peculiar to the specific type of strategy this intends to pursue, the objectives this aims at attaining and the behaviour this expects individuals to exhibit. Nonetheless, employers should invariably shape and develop their businesses culture taking heed of some core, founding pillars such as readiness to change, flexibility, innovation, learning, recognition and open communication. On top of these components business founders, with the help of the organization management, should identify the other values and beliefs which they consider important to gain and maintain competitive advantage over their competitors.
Longo, R., (2015), How corporate culture supports strategy execution; Milan: HR Professionals.