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The role of management culture in strategy implementation

The familiar saying "do as I say, not as I do" works just as well in raising children as it does as a management practice reinforcing the desired organizational culture?

This blog is inspired by completed real-life client cases and it is a continuation of my blog "The role of individual responsibility in strategy implementation" (in Finnish). The point of view is now turned from individual responsibility to management cultural factors that enable or hinder the implementation of the strategy.

In this text, management culture refers to the set of values, beliefs, norms, and practices that shape how an organization's managers and leaders interact with employees and make decisions. As roughly simplified; what is done and not done, or what is said and how by the management. Strategy refers to a collection of choices, means and functions which enable an organization realizing their vision and goals.


Does your organization have sand in the gears?

As culture is not born overnight it is possible that your organization might be carrying some negative cultural features such as poor communication, autocratic leadership, favoritism, discrimination, or other detrimental practices as legacy. If you are new to the organization, it would be beneficial to first recognize, and then accept the current state of the culture. Planning a development path is easier when you know where you are starting form in addition to where you want to go.

In addition to where you want to go you need to figure out how you can get there. What kind of teams achieve desired goals and high-performing results and does your team possess them? Whether it is Google model, The Lencioni Model, Tucker or some other model, one of the unifying factors for high-performing team mindset is the common purpose within the team. It is not rare that even the management team does not share a crystal-clear understanding of the common purpose of the organization.

A well-defined vision and set of values provide a sense of purpose and direction for the team. When everyone understands and believes in the organization's mission, they are more likely to communicate the same narrative, and lessen the possibility for interpretation within the organization. When also employees understand the larger purpose, they are more likely to take responsibility for aligning their efforts towards achieving strategic goals. High-performing teams achieve high-performing results.

To summarize, setting direction is the starting point, but it alone is not enough. Management culture can guide organizational members to make decisions and choices that support the goals of the strategy. For example, if the organization emphasizes customer orientation and innovation, the management culture can encourage employees to find new ways to serve customers and develop new products. In the best case the management culture enables and supports, in the worst case it slows down or hinders the implementation of the strategy.


Try adding transparency and openness

In many organizations the view and connection from strategic measures to function or team-level activities can fade away quite easily. This is not problematic only from the management perspective, but also from the perspective of the employees who may lose the view on how their performance is connected to reaching company-level goals. One of the worst, and at the same time most natural thing that management can do, is to start developing more structures and procedures for decision-making, and for better monitoring of the progress.

A management culture can create common practices and norms that help coordinate and guide strategy implementation. What if instead of creating more structure and requiring more reporting, leaders and managers would lead by example by promoting transparency and openness to create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing information, ideas, concerns and feedback? Involving employees in the decision-making process whenever possible provides transparency to decision-making. Effective two-way communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and can adapt to changing circumstances.

Understanding the reasons behind decisions makes it easier to trust and support leadership. In its best transparency and openness are not just buzzwords but are integral to the organization's values and operations. This, in turn, can lead to increased employee engagement, trust, and overall organizational success.

In summary, the role of management culture in the implementation of strategy is significant, as it affects how the members of the organization act, make decisions, and work together to achieve goals. It is important that the management culture is in line with the organization's strategy and supports its implementation effectively.

Creating and maintaining a culture that supports effective strategy implementation and fosters a high-performing team mindset requires effort and consistency over time. Leaders should champion these cultural elements, and ensure they are integrated into the organization's policies, practices, and day-to-day operations. If the implementation of the strategy did not go as planned, and the objectives were not met, it would be beneficial to always look in the mirror first. Self-reflection is the first step to continuous improvement.

In the next blog I will share my insight on the importance of ways of working in strategy implementation in more detail.


Is renewing strategy topical for your organization, or have you faced challenges in strategy implementation? Knowit has the expertise and experience needed for effective strategy formation and implementation into everyday life’s practices and measurable results. Let’s have a chat about how we could support you in making your strategy work visible for all levels of the organization!