Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been quietly contemplating why and how Organizational Culture (OC) can and should be integrated into every organization’s “normal” course of doing business. How to move it from a fad (according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary “Culture” was the most popular word of 2014) to a bona fide business strategy. In John Bersin’s article “Culture: Why It’s The Hottest Topic In Business Today” he noted that “culture, engagement, and employee retention are now the top talent challenges facing business leaders. More than half business leaders rate this issue “urgent” – up from only around 20% last year.”

Most organizations are no stranger to the annual ritual of setting business goals in January with the hope that they will guide the efforts and tactical focus of all employees to ensure those employees contribute to the success of the organization. These goals, almost universally, fall into several “business” categories such as: Productivity, Safety, Quality, Financial, etc. But rarely do leaders include Organizational Culture (OC) goals in this list of business priorities, unless of course they have decided they are plagued with a toxic OC that is preventing them from achieving the true “business” goals they seek. When this occurs, many managers move into seek and destroy mode locking themselves in a room affixing blame and looking for quick fixes to get things “back on track”.

Innovative leaders who understand the often under tapped resource lying at their fingertips, ready to provide the organization’s only true competitive advantage – their people, take a different approach – they seek to incorporate OC goals into the very DNA of their organizations, understanding that engaged employees invest themselves, mind, body and soul, driving uncompromising results – not because they have to, but because they want to. The good news is you too can create an empowering OC that will attract and retain highly qualified, engaged employees who thrive because their passion, potential and performance have been unleashed. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Tips for aligning culture and strategy:

  1. Identify and focus on ACTIONS (behaviors) that will lead directly to desired outcomes.
  2. Evaluate those ACTIONS against your stated values and philosophies – are they congruent? If not, proceed with caution or change either your actions or values.
  3. Implement business and OC metrics and make outcomes both observable and measurable.
  4. Lead by example – it’s up to you to model OC expectations.
  5. Realign your reward systems with your OC and desired ACTIONS.
  6. Ensure people see a clear connection between their ACTIONS and the desired OC.
  7. Communicate organizational values and philosophies while focusing on the strategy.

Tactical Components for aligning culture and strategy:

  • Select the strategic direction, goals and objectives.
  • Determine which ACTIONS (behaviors) are necessary to achieve the goals and objectives.
  • Identify the OC attributes in your organization that will reinforce those ACTIONS (behaviors) such as stories (legends and lore), key relationships, rituals and ceremonies that influence internal and external behavior.
  • Identify the OC attributes in your organization that may create barriers to positive ACTIONS (behaviors) needed to achieve those results.
  • Determine ACTIONS (behaviors) that need to change to achieve results AND reinforce your OC.
  • Ensure leaders model and promote expectations for performance through OC.

As I’ve stated in The OC Equation – Unleashing Your Employees’ Passion, Potential and Performance, “Ultimately, your organization’s success implementing its business strategy will be directly related to how well your OC aligns with that strategy.” Are you preparing to lead your organization to attract and retain the talent needed to execute?