Strategy and culture


…An indispensable symbiosis

In his famous quote, Peter Drucker emphasised the significant role of culture in shaping an organisation’s success, stating that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Culture encompasses shared values, beliefs, behaviours and norms that influence how employees interact, make decisions, and approach their work. A strong and positive culture can serve as a powerful motivator, foster collaboration, and create an environment conducive to achieving strategic objectives. Conversely, a toxic or misaligned culture can undermine even the most well-crafted strategies.

While strategy provides a roadmap and direction, it is the culture that ultimately determines the effectiveness of its execution. Strategy involves analysis, decision-making, and resource allocation to achieve specific goals and objectives.

However, it is crucial to recognise that strategy and culture are not mutually exclusive entities; rather, they are interconnected and ideally should be aligned. By formulating a strategy that takes into account the existing culture and actively works towards shaping a positive and supportive culture, organisations can enhance the implementation of their strategies and contribute to their overall success.

To build a winning organisational culture that will execute strategy with flawless precision, it is essential to deeply understand the cultural nuances that shape a society. In the context of Ghana, the Hofstede’s cultural dimensions is one such research that provides valuable insights into key aspects of Ghanaian culture, such as power distance, collectivism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation, and indulgence.

The Hofstede research suggests that Ghana exhibits what it calls a relatively “high-power distance”, indicating a hierarchical society with centralised decision-making, which may limit individual empowerment and initiative within organisations. Additionally, Ghana is characterised as a collectivist society that values group harmony over individual achievement, potentially impacting personal drive for success and competition. Moreover, the society’s moderate to high uncertainty avoidance may contribute to a risk-averse business culture, potentially hindering entrepreneurial activities and innovation.

Furthermore, Ghana ranks very high on indulgence, reflecting a positive attitude toward enjoying life and having fun. This suggests a society that places value on leisure time and encourages the fulfilment of basic human desires. This cultural inclination toward indulgence may influence the workplace environment, promoting a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. By incorporating such cultural insights, leaders can effectively shape an organisational culture that aligns with the values and expectations of their employees and that delivers results.

In this article, we delve into a number of strategies that leaders can employ to align strategy to culture and culture to strategy.

Aligning strategy to culture and culture to strategy.

Leadership style: Based on the Hofstede report, Ghana exhibits a high-power distance, favouring a leadership style that embraces a benevolent autocratic approach. Leaders are typically respected and authoritative, while also demonstrating fairness, empathy and strong decision-making skills.

It is, however, important to acknowledge that this leadership style may discourage lower-level employees from expressing their ideas or challenging the leader’s decisions, limiting diverse perspectives and potential opportunities for growth and improvement.

To address this, strategy must include initiatives that implement leadership development programmes focused on nurturing a diverse set of leadership styles and skills. Additionally, modifications to the organisational structure and decision-making processes should be considered to allow for greater decentralisation of authority and increased employee involvement.

Vision and goal setting: Ghana displays a low score in long-term orientation, indicating the need to balance the pursuit of quick results, with an appreciation for cultural traditions and norms. When setting strategic goals, consider how they align with long-term objectives and respect the values and wisdom of the past. Communicate the strategic vision in a way that emphasises its relevance to both present and future goals.

Clear and respectful communication: Effective communication is crucial for successful strategy execution. Leaders should clearly and respectfully communicate strategic objectives, initiatives and progress. Highlight the benefits of the strategy to the collective, and demonstrate how it aligns with cultural values. Utilise inclusive language, practise active listening, and encourage open dialogue to address questions, concerns and suggestions from employees.

Organisation of teams: In a collectivistic culture like Ghana, fostering team cohesion and collaboration is essential. Organise teams to promote a sense of belonging, loyalty and shared responsibility. Encourage cross-functional collaboration and knowledge-sharing to leverage diverse perspectives. Foster a culture of cooperation and collaboration by emphasising shared goals and interdependence within teams.

Adaptability and flexibility: Despite Ghana’s relatively high uncertainty avoidance, leaders should encourage adaptability and flexibility in strategy execution. Anticipate and address potential resistance to change by providing clear explanations, involving employees in decision-making processes, and emphasising the benefits of the strategy. Allow for adjustments and course corrections based on feedback and changing circumstances.

Reward and recognition: Develop a reward and recognition system that values teamwork, collaboration and collective achievements. Acknowledge and celebrate successful team efforts, highlighting the contributions of individuals within the team. This reinforces the importance of collective accomplishments and fosters a sense of belonging and loyalty. Consider non-monetary rewards, such as public recognition, certificates of achievement, or opportunities for professional growth and development, which are valued in collectivist cultures.

Performance management: Align performance management practices with the cultural values of Ghana. Provide clear and specific performance expectations while emphasising the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Conduct regular feedback and coaching sessions to ensure employees feel supported and have opportunities for growth. Encourage a supportive and nurturing approach to help employees achieve their goals.

Innovation and creativity:

Ghanaian society, influenced by high uncertainty avoidance, often values stability and security, which can lead to a general aversion to taking risks and a fear of failure. Building a culture of innovation, curiosity and ideation in such a society requires a thoughtful and deliberate approach.

Creating an environment where individuals feel psychologically safe to take risks and share ideas is crucial. Encourage open communication, active listening, and provide respectful feedback. Establish an environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning and growth rather than failures. By offering reassurance and support, individuals will feel more comfortable stepping out of their comfort zones, exploring new ideas, and embracing uncertainty. Additionally, consider implementing gradual exposure to uncertainty, instead of expecting an immediate shift in the cultural mindset.

While the cultural dimensions from Hofstede provide valuable insights into broader cultural tendencies, it is essential to recognise that they may not fully capture the nuances and unique characteristics of an organisation’s culture. Each organization has its own distinct culture that is shaped by its history, values and employee dynamics. Therefore, it is crucial for leaders to conduct internal assessments and deeply understand their own company culture to determine the specific changes required to align with their strategy and goals. This process involves gathering feedback, conducting surveys, and engaging in open dialogue with employees at all levels. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of their organisation’s culture, leaders can identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement, enabling them to implement targeted strategies and initiatives that foster the desired cultural shifts necessary to achieve their strategic objectives.

Culture is a dynamic and ever-evolving aspect of an organisation, influenced by internal and external factors. As societal values, norms and beliefs shift over time, so does the organisational culture. Effective leaders recognise the importance of tracking cultural changes and adjusting their strategies accordingly. By staying attuned to cultural shifts, leaders can ensure that their strategies remain relevant and aligned with the evolving needs and expectations of employees and stakeholders. This requires continuous monitoring, open communication channels, and a willingness to adapt and modify strategies as necessary.

In conclusion, the alignment of strategy and culture is paramount for organisations aspiring to achieve sustainable success. While strategy provides direction, it is the organisational culture that ultimately determines the effectiveness of strategy execution. This necessitates a deep understanding of cultural nuances and values, as well as the implementation of strategies that actively shape a positive and supportive culture.

Leaders must be cognisant of cultural differences and leverage cultural insights to shape an organisational culture that resonates with employees and aligns with strategic goals. By doing so, organisations can navigate the complexities of cultural dynamics, build strong relationships, and create an inclusive and productive work environment. By recognising the interdependence of strategy and culture, leaders can harness the power of both to drive organisational success, adapt to changing circumstances, and thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape.

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