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Organizational Culture *Is* Strategy

Image Credit: gotham Culture

It’s said that Peter Drucker, world-renowned business management superstar, once famously commented, “Culture beats strategy.”

Or “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

While neither version has been authenticated as being said by Drucker, I understand the proposition, which places an importance on the value of culture to a business.

That said, I think it’s really missing the point because organizational culture is strategy.

Your company’s core values and its purpose are the fundamental building blocks of your culture. When you shape your company purpose around your values, you’re really defining the culture for your business. That’s why it’s so important to align your actions with your values and live your company’s purpose on a daily basis.

This extends to creating a successful brand.

To build a successful brand, I like to look at it as honoring the five Cs: clarity, consistency, character, communications, and culture.

  • A successful brand gives you clarity about your message and your actions.
  • It gives your message consistency in all its applications, which increases its influence and power.
  • Character, ah, character — developing a brand voice and personality forged with true character helps determine whether your brand is different from the competitors: likable, distinguishable, and engaging.
  • This should go without saying, but a successful brand relies on relentless, conscious communications with all your stakeholders, but places primary emphasis on the internal audience of those who will make your brand most successful: the team who earns its living each day working as part of your brand.
  • Lastly, culture — the ultimate strategy you are building for your brand, a culture guided by intentional actions in service to your values and your purpose.

And here’s why that’s so important to your brand: While today’s data-driven marketing rewards everything that can be measured, one of the primary characteristics of a culture is that it’s hard to measure (not impossible, but not necessarily easy, and accomplished mainly by metrics of extrapolation in my opinion). Your culture has so many intangibles, which is exactly why it’s so important to your brand, as those intangibles add up to something that is very, very hard to copy. Culture, when successfully cultivated, is the antithesis of a commodity; a competitor can’t easily replicate the feature or benefit or experience of your culture.

That gives you a key brand differentiator — being different — that’s at the core of successful branding.

Think about it. I’ve always loved the simplified approach that Michael Porter of Harvard Business School brings to his definition of strategy:

  • Strategy is developing a unique position in the marketplace.
  • Strategy is about gaining a competitive advantage.
  • Strategy is about designing a competitive advantage that is sustainable over time.

That equation clearly says to me that organizational culture doesn’t beat strategy — it truly is strategy.

Culture differentiates you to your customers, to potential new hires, to your employees. And as such, it has important ramifications for marketing investments, productivity, and talent attraction and retention.

So, my question to you, dear friend, brand builder or social entrepreneur: What have you done today to consciously build the culture of your company?

This post first appeared on LinkedIn on July 27, 2017.

Russ Stoddard is the founder of Idaho-based creative agency Oliver Russell. He’s committed his career (nearly 30 years) to social responsibility, first inside the corporate world and then as an entrepreneur who’s started four companies and five nonprofit causes.… [Read more about Russ Stoddard]

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