Comparing the virtues of a company’s strategy and culture is a popular trend among business thinkers, with much time being devoted to considering which is the most important.
Plenty of articles argu that each is the most important, with strategists – perhaps unsurprisingly – favouring business strategy as the most vital element to success. Meanwhile, those with a greater focus on people and behaviours; are likely to believe that company culture comes up trumps.
There will be some, of course, who are wondering why there is even a debate surrounding which is more important. After all, should the two not go hand-in-hand? Does elevating one above the other only succeed in falling short of the potential power that having a good strategy and culture creates?
In this blog, we’ll define the roles of strategy and culture in business terms, and uncover which is more beneficial for your company – ending this age-old debate once and for all.
What is the meaning of “strategy” in business?
In simple terms, strategy may be best defined as the way in which a business plans to operate. It can be the written down documentation which sets out the direction a company hopes to take.
What is the role of business strategy in an organisation?
Without a strategy, how is a business expected to define its direction? It would render a business a rudderless ship, with its final destination left only to chance and the breeze of the wind – hardly a business approach most leaders would advocate.
The role of business strategy is crucial to the success of a company. No culture, however positive, can overcome a poor corporate strategy or weak decision-making. Cast your mind back to the days of the dot-com boom. Trendy offices focused on creating energising environments for staff. But with the absence of a strong strategy in many of these companies, the culture which was so quick to form soon crashed as businesses struggled to continue operating with little or flawed strategic direction.
What is “company culture”?
The idea of “company culture” refers to an organisation’s social order, setting guidelines for expected work practise. In contrast to the business strategy, which can be the “what” of a company’s direction, company culture details the “how” and “why” behind it: why do we want to fulfil these goals (what is the greater meaning) and how are we going to do it.
Why is company culture vital to business success?
There is a tendency for companies who like to cite culture as the critical factor to success to describe strategy as somewhat arcane; it may be committed to paper, but it is no match for a great culture which will determine exactly HOW things get done.
Indeed, some argue that anybody can create a brilliant strategy, change it or even copy it. It is much harder to build a strong, productive culture.
Of course, that is not to say that culture does not have a vital role to place in the workplace. Each and every one of us wants to enjoy our time at work. With such a large proportion of our lives spent there, it should be a place where we feel safe and comfortable. If you do a job that you love in an environment that adds value to your everyday life, then you may consider yourself very lucky indeed.
Not that a good corporate culture happens by chance. The companies that boast great culture have created it intentionally, making it an integral part of their corporate values, vision and strategy. Just as a culture without strategy can be dangerous, a strategy which ignores culture can become just as toxic.
Culture can be considered an essential variable in any business. Just as product, pricing and distribution are vital considerations when developing strategy, cultural strengths, such as the behaviour of front-line staff, should be taken into account.
Never mind the strategy vs culture argument – businesses need both to thrive
All the perks and benefits of a company which has a great culture to work for are worthless if the core values of that company are not encompassed by a vision which is being implemented both strategically and tactically. A culture that is not driven by strategy can be life-threatening to the long-term success of any business.
It is clear that both culture and strategy have different yet equally important roles to play in business and it is arguably foolhardy to place one in a position of importance over the other. If a culture is strong, employees are more likely to be engaged in delivering its strategy. If the strategy is poor, even the best culture in the world will struggle to overcome it.
In short, both must work together to drive sustainable success.
There are a tremendous amount of benefits to be found by prioritising each of these components, but why not aim for the sum of its parts and double your opportunities? Both strategy and culture are hard to change. But understanding both – and how they interact with each other – is critical to giving any firm the competitive edge it needs to survive in an ever-changing marketplace.
We can help you when it comes to building a successful business strategy, or a thriving company culture (or both!). Book a consultation with us to talk it through, and give your organisation a better chance at long-term success.