Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 1.48.36 PMBusiness leaders have a universal goal – to win. But that goal can’t be accomplished unless those leaders have two critical elements in their arsenal – 1) a winning business strategy and 2) the organizational culture (OC) required to implement the strategy.

Most successful businesses develop and implement a business strategy that fits their definition of how to win in their niche marketplace. And while that’s a great first step, but a strategy is only as good as its execution and that’s where your OC comes in.

While the OC Equation (values + philosophies X actions = OC) helps leaders understand what it takes to create and sustain a positive OC, there is no single OC that works in every organization. On the contrary, OCs are as numerous as organizations themselves.

For example, the Harvard Business Review’s article The Defining Elements of a Winning Culture by Michael C. Mankins, AM December 19, 2013 outlined four legendary cultures that are creating exceptional value for their organizations: search

  • Kent Thiry builds a values-focused culture at DaVita and transforms the company from a laggard to the world’s leading provider of kidney dialysis services
  • Alan Mulally creates a “working–together” spirit at Ford Motor Company that focuses and re-energizes the automaker, reversing a decades-long slide in market share
  • Herb Kelleher fosters a culture of employee empowerment and cost containment at Southwest, enabling the airline to become one of the world’s most admired and profitable carriers
  • Steve Jobs builds a challenging culture at Apple — one where ”reality is suspended” and ”anything is possible”’ — and the company becomes the most valuable on the planet. search

And therein lies why your OC IS your competitive advantage. Lou Gerstner, author of Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? put it this way: “Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”

In addition to a strong OC, your organization also needs empowering leadership who can articulate a common vision and inspire employees through the culture to accomplish the business objectives and create value. This is where companies that don’t get it go astray – they make the mistake of thinking if they simply create a culture where employees “feel good” and are happy, the results will automatically come. But that’s not the real world and results take work and commitment. Feeling good, being “satisfied” or “happy” won’t produce results. Have you ever seen employees who were completely “happy” being “retired in place”?

But a strong OC alone, is not enough. To produce results and enhance profits, your OC has to directly relate to your business strategy and produce results. A winning OC not only expects, but demands performance and leadership fosters an environment where all stakeholders win.

Has your organization defined and communicated how it will win? Have you engaged employees to ensure they understand how they can help you win? OC can only be a competitive advantage when it’s aligned with your values, philosophies and actions. What’s your organization missing?