January 22, 2016 Comments Off on Talent Talk: What Do You Really Want Your Culture To Be? Views: 568 Connect Classroom

Talent Talk: What Do You Really Want Your Culture To Be?

Talent Talk is a regular column on employment trends written by Glen Esnard, the executive vice president and principal of 20-20 Foresight Executive Search. This is his third article in a four-part series on culture.


The most repeated assertions I heard in my MS program in Organizational Change  was “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

We have already discussed the impact of culture on operational and financial performance as well as the common gap between senior leadership view of culture contrasted with the view of middle management and line performers, where culture truly resides.

The operative question is what particular cultural will accelerate the strategic goals of the organization. The follow on questions is whether it is possible to adapt he organizational culture to support the organizational strategy. We’ll deal with the latter question in our next post, but let’s address the alignment of culture and organizational strategy.


Figure 1.  is a McKinsey Group model that reflects and connects organizational elements and their relationships to each other. The original design was intended to support organizational change efforts, to ensure leaders were taking into account how a change in one part of the organization would affect others. A cornerstone of the model is, simply, everything impacts everything. A minor change in systems can ripple through every component of the organization.

But consider the central node, “shared values”. As we have noted earlier, shared values and practices define organizational culture.

When we ask “What do you really want  your culture to be?” the functional dynamic is whether your culture is enabling your desired  structure, systems, style, staffing, organizational skills and strategy, or is it inhibiting all of the above. It tends to be binary.

Say your goal is to develop a knowledge based organization, where deep information flows freely to the point of impact for the benefit of the organization and/or clients. Does your culture (likely developed well before “knowledge based organization” was coined) actually support that goal? Do your rewards and recognition practices incent sharing or hoarding of information? Operationally, is your culture attracting and retaining the talent required to take the next step, or are you struggling to hang on to the quality talent you have?

Culture does eat strategy for breakfast.  The deeper question is whether you are willing to allow a culture that is, perhaps, a legacy of business practices from years past dictate your organizations future or do you have the power to transform organizational culture to propel dynamic future growth.

Next post: Can your culture change?

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