3 Tips for Integrating Culture & Strategy

Written by Jamie Notter on March 31, 2016

So this month we tackled the overlap of culture with strategy. We challenged the notion that culture eats strategy for breakfast and we asked you to at least think about what our beloved-process of strategic planning is actually doing to your internal culture. Then we might have made you even more uncomfortable by talking about how associations need to start being more nimble with their strategies (and what that means for culture). And if that weren’t enough, we interviewed Jeff De Cagna about all this to push you even more! So we leave you this month with three tips for integrating strategy and culture in your association.

1. Spend less time on planning and more on strategy. This is a huge one. The whole point of strategy is to make clear choices (about what you do, where you spend your money, etc.) that will make you more successful. But how clear are you about what drives success? Is it really just providing opportunities for networking and education (plus some form of advocacy) like your strategic plan says? I think it’s more nuanced than that, and I think it’s changing in today’s environment. The sharper you can define the success drivers, the more effective your planning will be AND then you have the opportunity to align your culture with those success drivers.

2. Confront cultural inconsistencies. However you do your strategy and planning process, make sure that it is not inconsistent with the cultural building blocks you are putting in place inside your organization. If you believe employees should be empowered to make decisions, then you can’t give them a very detailed strategic plan that just tells them what to do. That is culturally inconsistent. You’re better off creating a set of clear strategic principles and then letting your people run with it. If that makes you uncomfortable, then work to change your culture to being more hierarchical and controlled. I don’t care which culture you choose, but stand by it and use processes that are consistent with it.

3. Don’t forget to learn. Learning should actually be a key building block of your culture that you are developing, and it ties directly into strategy. So often we develop and then implement our plans, and then celebrate when we get good results (typically financial ones), yet we don’t take time to learn from what we’ve done. And I don’t mean the 4.1 scores you got on your conference evaluations. I mean real learning, where you can uncover new insights about what works, what doesn’t, and why. If your culture doesn’t support that kind of ongoing inquiry, measurement, and honest conversations, then it’s unlikely your strategy work is going to be any good.