Corporate Cultures – Culture Trumps Strategy

Culture is hard to quantify but its impact on business operations is unmistakable. Even the well-conceived strategy cannot withstand the onslaught of a counter focused culture. In order for a strategy to be implementable, it must be formulated to work within the confines of the corporate culture. Alternatively, the corporate culture must be changed before the strategy is implemented… typically a years long process.[wcm_restrict plans=”25541, 25542, 25653″]

An Example

As corporate culture is hard to measure, the best way to illustrate its impact on business strategy execution is with an example. Consider an innovative, high-quality products company…

Tenure vs. Performance

Cultures rewarding tenure promote time with the company or time within the field of practice. The premise is that time brings experience and experience improves performance, thus, longer tenure equates to better performance. What is neglected is the measurement of actual performance. Therefore, a tenured person may or may not exhibit superior performance and is instead rewarded regardless of performance, even for poor performance. The message to the workforce is that performance is of secondary importance. A company pursuing an innovative, high-quality focused strategy will be handicapped during execution because those qualities of high performance are not primarily valued and rewarded.

Performance centered cultures recognize and reward the achievement of positive results. As such, the workforce becomes focused on achieving the goals of the organization in order to realize the furtherance of their own prosperity. The innovative, high-quality driven company espousing a performance-based culture possesses a workforce motivated to achieve high performance standards because doing so is valued and rewarded.

Time vs. Productivity

Time-based cultures value those who report to work early, leave late, and work nights, weekends, and holidays. Like tenure focused cultures, results are of secondary concern to those valuing the amount of time spent working. Subsequently, a time-based culture hinders innovation and quality because these results go proportionately unrewarded.

Productivity valuing cultures praise the achievement of results; for without results there is no productivity. As with performance centered cultures, those focused on productivity drive achievement of corporate goals. It is important that the drive to produce more does not result in cutting corners and lower quality. Thus, productivity-based cultures become a double edged sword for the innovative, high-quality strategy.

Effort vs. Results

Cultures valuing effort appreciate those who give their all to the performance of their work; an apparently noble value but no one that fosters corporate success. Valuing effort fails to recognize that some individuals are simply not qualified or capable of successfully performing in a given role. Thus, failure to achieve desired results may be rewarded. As with tenure-based cultures, rewarding effort is counter to the execution effectiveness required of an innovative, high-quality strategy.

Results-based cultures reward those achieving desired outcomes. While similar to performance-based cultures, focusing on results alone can ignore how results are achieved; rewarding those whose methods are contrary to corporate values or, at worst, unethical. Therefore, a results centered culture supports implementation of an innovation, high-quality strategy but caution must be exercised to ensure proper business conduct is practiced.

Quantity vs. Quality

The quantity-based culture is akin to that valuing productivity without any pretense focus on quality. Subsequently, a company implementing a quality driven strategy faces execution issues because its reward system doesn’t directly promote quality results.

A quality focused culture values those whose work represents the highest in precision and accuracy. On the surface, this culture directly supports achievement of a quality driven strategy. However, too strong a focus on quality – an insatiable need to achieve perfection – can diminish productivity to a degree that the company ultimately fails. Therefore, the quality culture, while supportive of the related strategy, must be balanced with productivity to be optimally effective.


Cultures are complex and multidimensional. Considering all of the competing values discussed reveals a multidimensional culture that supports a strategy of innovation and high quality.

    Culture Dimension     Beneficial (+) or Detractor (-)     Additional Considerations
    Tenure     Detractor (-)
    Performance     Beneficial (+)
    Time     Detractor (-)
    Productivity     Beneficial (+)     Needs a quality balance
    Effort     Detractor (-)
    Results     Beneficial (+)     Needs a values balance
    Quantity     Detractor (-)     Assumes no quality balance
    Quality     Beneficial (+)     Needs a productivity balance

Desired Culture: Performance-based culture that rewards quality focused productivity and values driven results.

Final Thought…

StrategyDriven is not suggesting that one corporate culture is better than another. Rather, we assert that an organization’s culture will support or diminish the effectiveness of strategy execution based on the alignment between the two. In fact, different strategies will require different corporate cultures in order to be successfully implemented.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember plans=”25541, 25542, 25653″]

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