The Gap Between Goals and Strategy Execution:

Addressing the need for a Strong Culture


Gap between goals and strategy execution

When working with our clients, I’m often asked, “What is the most common gap I see in organizations as it pertains to culture and what should be the focus to address this gap? This then leads to their next question “what would have the most impact on successful goal and strategy execution?”

 From my last blog Connecting Culture and Strategy I defined an organization’s culture as “the attitudes and behaviours that are expected in order to fit in and be successful”.  So, when I walk into my place of work, I know exactly the attitudes and behaviours that I am given permission to demonstrate, and those that I am not. For example, I am told that we want to empower our employees to use good judgement therefore I believe I am empowered to make decisions within my scope of work.  In reality, my manager expects me to run all decision through them.  If there is a gap between the organization’s espoused values and these expected attitudes and behaviours, then we have what is called a ‘cultural disconnect.’ And the larger the gap… the greater the employee disengagement. To close the gap, an organization must address its tolerated behaviours by finding a way to measure it’s culture.

Without systematic measurement, culture is often seen as abstract, difficult to connect to bottom line results, and judged as “soft." Clever employee communications, PR campaigns, incentives and other attempts to change culture are well intentioned but ineffective, and frequently trigger responses within the culture (and outside) which undermine their purpose. At best dismissed as “flavour of the month” or nice idea but with a limited bottom-line contribution, at worst these efforts create cynicism and complaints about not “walking the talk." What is most critical is knowing that:

  •  Rigorous, reliable measurement of culture is the first step in understanding “where you are” and “where you want to go”
  • Identifying the ideal and getting your employees to tell you what is really going on will allow you to establish the current culture
  • Culture is inspired by leadership. The imperative is modeling - be the culture you want to see. The rest of the organization takes its cues from the leaders’ behaviour and character
  • Constructive cultures engage the “Leader Within”. Every employee and every team brings head, heart and intuition resulting in initiative, accountability and creative leadership at all levels
  • Culture flourishes when authentic truth telling and dialogue are constant practice. 

Transformation to a constructive culture occurs when stakeholders are engaged and aligned – constructive cultures are integrative, collaborative and inclusive. Leaders have the greatest impact on culture – they own it.

The maximum impact on driving strategy execution is to take the time and commitment to dig deep below the surface to understand how the organization’s values and norms are being lived, but also how the attitudes, behaviours and beliefs are helping an organization’s ability to create culture and achieve goals in a constructive work setting.

In order to shift from formulating your strategy to executing your strategy, you have to think about culture —and culture is all about execution. Strong cultures impact performance in a couple of ways. One way is that cultures improve performance by engaging and energizing employees— they also must appeal to the employees’ values and their ideals to rally them around a set of important and aligned goals or strategies. This becomes the foundation to the employees’ commitment and their effort to get things done. Strong cultures also increase performance by the way they shape and align the employees’ behaviour. The stated values and norms help employees’ focus attention on organizational priorities that then guide their behavior and decision making.

 Need to address the gap between goals and strategy execution?  Feel free to contact me to discuss your questions at mmitchell@achieveblue.com.

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