STRATEGY OR CULTURE: WHY YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHOOSE

STRATEGY OR CULTURE: WHY YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHOOSE 790 416 Karl-Heinz Oehler

To state the obvious…Most, if not all, firms face increasing economic and social uncertainty. Despite this “new reality,” all firms still need to achieve and sustain high levels of performance, regardless of whether they are public or private firms. The logical consequence for any organization is, more than ever, the need to create and maintain a strong alignment between corporate strategy and corporate culture. Asking the question, “Which one is more important: Strategy or Culture?” is missing the point. They both are. Always.

There is much debate about whether or not culture is measurable. It is. Denison Consulting clients, and potential clients from all over Europe, operating in very different industries, recently met in the beautiful setting of the Kartause Ittingen in Switzerland to exchange best practices around cultural transformation initiatives. One important message emerged from the Forum: Once you measure, you know, and once you know, you have to act. And that call for action implies accountability for change to produce better results.

The Denison Organizational Culture Survey, built around the Denison Organizational Culture Model, provides a reliable and validated measure of the health of a firm’s culture. One unique feature, among others, makes the Denison approach stand out beyond all the rest: the proven link to organizational performance. However, survey results alone don’t provide the answers that business leaders are looking for. Organizational leaders often intuitively understand the importance of culture. However, they want to understand the link of organizational culture with the firm’s financial performance. This is where mapping the strategy to the culture comes in.

The real work begins once the results of the culture survey are available. Results without business context are difficult to interpret. It is imperative to demonstrate how corporate culture and strategy interact. The critical question is: “Where are the cultural gaps that hinder the firm from achieving its business objectives?” This is exactly where the Denison model differentiates itself; it provides a foundation for mapping culture survey results to the company strategy. In other words, the Denison model is an organizational effectiveness model, providing organizational leaders with critical information to drive business results.

Denison Consulting generates an organization’s results by comparing them to those of over 1,000 other organizations in the Denison global normative database. The resulting percentile scores indicate how well an organization ranks in comparison to the other organizations in the database. For example, if an organization has a percentile score of 80, it scored higher than 80 percent of the organizations in the database – making the results easy to understand and interpret.

Percentiles give meaning to the results that raw mean scores do not. A raw mean score of 2.5 does not convey information about vulnerability or risk. However, if that mean translates to a percentile rank of 30, it tells the organization that this is a vulnerable area that deserves attention. Mapping organizational aspirations against culture survey scores makes critical gaps immediately visible, so the effort necessary to close those gaps can be addressed.

To conclude: Organizational Culture can be measured, and there is a proven method to do so. Strategy and culture are equally important. The participants in Denison’s Best Practices Forum discussed how to build the bridge between them. The Denison Organization Culture Model is an organizational effectiveness model that links culture survey results to corporate strategy—identifying gaps critical to effective strategy execution. Using the Denison Model, organizational leaders are able to set priorities for building a culture to implement and execute effective business strategy across the organization.