The Importance of Culture in Strategy Execution
Developing a strategic plan is vital to an organization’s success. An organization must be able to efficiently execute that strategy to achieve its performance improvement goals. The organization’s culture is often the most important determiner in successful execution.
At the core, implementing strategy depends on two essential elements:
- Building and sustaining an organizational culture that facilitates and accelerates change
- Fostering a sense of personal accountability for strategy execution ownership at every agency level – from administrative assistant to senior leadership
In other words, constructing a culture that creates the flexibility and understands and accepts the responsibilities for change is key.
Creating an organizational culture that is open to change starts with a senior leadership team that communicates an agency’s strategic priorities often and effectively.
Each person in the agency contributes to its success. Everyone should feel personally accountable. A case study involving telecommunications giant AT&T revealed that effective collaboration between teams, a commitment to an employee’s personal action plan, and open dialogue with senior management led to an environment in which employees at all levels felt that their opinions counted. As part of the study, the participants developed measurable goals and plans to communicate clearly and created feedback mechanisms to senior leadership. The atmosphere the participants built led to improved strategy execution and higher performance.
Senior leaders can focus their teams with a simple, yet important, framework to make strategy happen and achieve results:
1. Make strategy clear: Make strategic vision and goals clear and inspirational
2. Make strategy real: Translate strategy into a living execution plan that matters to people; don’t let it sit on a shelf
3. Make strategy happen: Capitalize on existing beneficial behaviors, and take action to adjust undesired or obsolete behaviors as needed
4. Make efforts from strategic planning last: Change organizational processes to reinforce desired behaviors for the long term and enable alignment with an organization’s culture
The most effective organizations understand that simply writing a strategic plan does not guarantee success – it is just a vision. Meaningful progress only occurs through creating and reinforcing a culture of change, top-down employee buy-in, strategy ownership, implementation, and accountability.