Strategy = Execution

The 10 Principles of Culture and Behavioral issues

The 10 Principles of Culture and Behavioral issues

  1. Focus on desirable behaviors
    1. Cultural development is not about defining organizational norms and values, but about stimulating desirable behavior. Putting energy into analyzing undesirable behavior is of no use. Instead, focus on fostering ethical and preferable behaviors. Stakeholders are owners. It is about their conduct and their underlying convictions and intentions. They have a stake in their own personal development.
    2. Employee behavior is determined by several factors. Targeted interventions can help foster desirable behaviors. This pertains to cooperative style, leadership style, dealing with responsibilities, communication style and ways of calling co-workers out on undesirable behavior.
    3. Edward Schein, an expert on organizational culture in the good sense of the word, argues, and substantiates, that the only way to achieve cultural development is through the development of actual behavior. Such development is effective only when tackling specific behavior in direct relationship to organizational goals and business processes, in other words, to content.
  2. Goals and content come first

Designing culture and conduct, the soft side of business, pays off only in conjunction with hard goals and hard elements of strategy execution. Integrate soft design into your overall design by specifying the actual behavior people need to display in order for the designed process to really take off and by choosing interventions that can make that happen. Forget those inspirational plaques with your organization’s core values. They have zero bearing on the day-to-day, or on innovation. Cultural development can only succeed when it is motivated by a need to concretize organizational strategy.

  1. Realistic goals and ditto time horizon

Don’t extend the horizon of a cultural development program beyond what can realistically be achieved in two years. This is paradoxical: cultural development can’t be rushed, but neither should it be a free pass for some interminable project.

  1. Cultural development does not exist

Embark only on a cultural development program in conjunction with concrete goals linked to a strategic initiative. Never start a cultural program in isolation. Culture is what links all the other processes in the organization. Cultural development should go hand in hand with change in other areas of the organization.

  1. Lead from the front

Managers must be prepared to look at their own conduct and make changes; they are culture carriers too. Cultural development is a developmental process that affects the entire organization, not just the lower-level jobs.

  1. Call it cultural development, not cultural change

Develop new behaviors (meanings) that fit the organization’s intentions.

  1. Frequent, consistent communication

The organization’s views on desirable behaviors, areas of change and goals must be communicated frequently and consistently.

  1. A cultural program should neither be too rigid, nor non-committal

Make sure the program is a journey rather than a fixed destination.

  1. Operations come first

Keep it simple and use—not overburden—your line organization by using a slim design that you subject to a broad review and communicate very clearly.

  1. Two-step design of soft elements
  1. Select a maximum of five behavioral themes. Each theme describes a type of conduct and the shift in behavior that will reinforce your goals and develop the culture. Your description must clearly connect the behavior to your hard goals and specify where in the overall design – in which business process – the behavior in question needs to take place. Behavioral themes must have a one-to-one correspondence with your strategic objectives.
  2. Select a maximum of ten interventions. Defined as a conscious stimulus or activity related to a behavioral theme, an intervention is run parallel with the hard activities of a particular initiative to foster the behavior necessary to achieve your hard goal. To ensure impact and focus, stage no more than two interventions per behavioral theme.

Based on Edgar H Schein, The Corporate Survival Guide: Sense and Nonsense about Cultural Change. Jossey-Bass, 1999.


Strategy = Execution. Improve, Renew and Innovate Faster

How can organizations make strategy execution their number one priority? And improve, renew and innovate faster? This I describe in my book Strategy = Execution. Strategy = execution is based on the research that Turner started years ago into the success factors of strategy execution and innovation. We interviewed 60 directors and professionals and analyzed more than 75 cases, 300 relevant books and articles.

  • More about Jacques Pijl (author) and Turner Consultancy
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