Alignment: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."



Cultural Alignment 

    A competent coach helps the manager make the corporate culture work for him, to lever its strengths. That is the first step, and a prerequisite too often overlooked, in the rush to take the second, viz. to transform the existing organization to align it better with a new strategy.

Interesting is that companies  ". . . today are no more effective at delivering on large-scale change initiatives than they were 20 years ago. In a recent Bain survey, 70% of the companies said their change management initiatives did not deliver the expected results. That success rate was unchanged from similar surveys we conducted in the 1980s and 1990s. And the environment for change is only getting more complex." (Bain website, 2010) A major shift in strategy, or a complete new one, is one of the most demanding changes of all -- with an even lower success rate.

    The Corporate Culture Circles
A corporation´s culture may be referred to as "how we do things around here." That can apply to a department, division, whole company, region, nation -- or to a global religion.





Insert the corporate circles from images.





The circles above may appear simplistic. Couching the above in academic jargon makes most people's eyes glaze over.  By way of example here is one definition of culture (from Webster's III) with just two sentences added: 

Culture is the body of customary beliefs, social forms and material traits constituting a distinct complex of tradition of a racial, religious, or social group. It governs our response to our social environment, ranging from a simple bipartisan synallagmatic relationship to complex multi-party cognitive dissonance. It is ubiquitous from Antarctica and Assyria to Xanadu and Zambia and applies to everyone, from Inuts and Yupiks, the Mongolians and the Qyrghyz, to Zororsterians and Zulus.*

*< Synallagmatic means reciprocal.  Cognitive dissonance refers to the tension from simultaneously holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind. It can lead to irrational behavior and denial.  Antarctica is the South Pole.  Assyria was an ancient empire in western Asia.  Xanadu is an idyllic, exotic, luxurious place in the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Coleridge (1798).  Zambia is a small country in Africa, north of Botswana, which in turn is north of South Africa. An Inut is an Inuit person; the Inuit and Yupik peoples are commonly known as Eskimos. The Mongolians live in eastern Asia, a region that includes the Gobi desert. Qyrghyz, also with various "k" spellings such as kirghiz and kirghese (German "Kirgese"), refers to a Mongolian race of people who inhabit the Central Asian steppes. A Zoroastrian is a follower of the prophet Zoroaster (6th century BC, Persia). The Zulus were a warrior clan, today making up about 11 million people who live mainly in South Africa.

Respect if your eyes did not glaze over by the time you got to the word synallagmatic, let alone qyrghyz! What one needs to understand is the importance, first, of clarity.  KISS for clarity! (KISS is an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid.) Second, one needs to realize the power of "how we do things around here," "how the game is played in general -- and by us," in short, the corporate culture.

Executing strategy depends on communication.  A competent coach helps the manager make the corporate culture work for him, to lever its strengths. That is the first step, and a prerequisite too often overlooked, in the rush to take the second, viz. to transform the existing culture to align it better with a new strategy.


Organizational Alignment

Execution often involves re-organizing the company, and departments within it. The quote below is frequently attributed to Gaius Petronius Arbiter (27-66 AD).1 He was a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero who is believed to have written the satirical novel Satyricon. He alledgely described a period of rapid change in the Roman Empire as follows: 

"We tried hard to meet our challenges, but it seemed as if every time we were beginning to form into teams we would be re-organized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, ineffectiveness and demoralization."

Actually the quote is from an article in Harper´s Magazine in 1957 by Charlton Ogburn Jr. (1911 - 1988). He was commenting on his chaotic early training in the Merrill´s Marauders,2 a special force for long-range penetration. It is renowned for its actions in the Burma campaign of World War II. Serving in it certainly taught Charlton Ogburn Jr. a great deal about translating tactics into execution in small teams in a challenging environment with tight deadlines.

1 An example of the mistaken citation is in the excellent book about management theory by John Mickletthwait and Adrain Wooldridge: Witch Doctors, Making Sense of the Management Gurus, Times Books, 1996. The quote appears on page 340 and the erroneous citation in a footnote, page 356, to "Overview of Re-engineering" Financial Times Handbook of Management, London, 1995, p. 231.

span helvetica="" style="font-size: 10pt;">2 Merrill´s Marauders started with 2,750 men on a 1,000 mile march to disrupt Japanese operations in Feb. 1944. The unit achieved one significant victory after another without air or artillery support, not, however, without cost. When the unit was disbanded six months later in August, 1944 there were 130 combat effective soldiers left. Of these only two had not been hospitalized in the course of the campaign. The surviving Marauders received the rare distinction of all being awarded a Bronze Star for valor.

Japanese businesses, with world-class products from world-class factories, deservedly command global respect. Beware of Pyrrhic* victories against them -- or other powerful competitors!

*Pyrrhus (319 - 272 BC) was a Greek general who became King of Epirus and Macedon. He won repeated battles against Rome, often with horrendous losses.

 span helvetica="" style="font-size: 11pt;">Add comments about organizational quicksand and cavitation. Conclude with a flywheel. Also add reference to cultural book.


Quote from previous subpage about the CEO as Evangelist: One needs to overcome the implacable power of organizational misocainea and its equally evil brother misoneism.*

* Misocainea is the hatred of new ideas. Misoneism is the hatred of change.


 © Gyan Web Design (2009-2010)