• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Aligning vision with values: How not to let culture eat strategy as a breakfast

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Corporate myopia is a condition where management is preoccupied with how to realize its vision and goals that it loses consciousness of the impact of their choices to the competition, their people, customers, the government and the environment. – Dr Brian O. Reuben.

If many organizations are able to deliver on their vision they will have superior performance. The pursuit for greatness- to attain it and sustain it has been a puzzle for many managers and hence their preoccupation.

The extent of this preoccupation is seen in the deluge of tools and thinkings that promise this superior profitability and are promoted by management consultants.

Businesses spend millions on training and executive programs to understand the prevailing thoughts and technology in their industry and how to apply the same in expectation of super profitability.

Year in year out, managers are compelled to face the sad reality that pursuing superior performance by adopting best practices is at best temporary leaving them confused about what best to do.

Yet some even make the right choices, formulating a well-thought-out business strategy. The confusion begins when results suggest their efforts and investments isn’t worth it. Shareholders are angry, employees are demoralized, managers lose their jobs!

More and more managers as a result are forced to believe that in an era of rapid and unexpected changes like we have there can be no real advantage except to somehow use political power to gain some form of advantage.

Lobbying law makers and seeking ways to influence government decisions and action become the new playbook of superior performance. Laws are repealed, new laws are made even at the expense of the general good, all in pursuit of superior performance.

Such was the intention behind the repealing of the Glass Steelgal law that eventually plunged the world into the great depression. All because business leaders believe the boundaries must be shifted however unethical that may be.

But superior performance is an outcome from making the decision to be unique. Any organization that makes the right choices and marshals out the right resources to support those choices and translate those choices into actions will have superior results. It’s always the result goals-strategy alignment.

The importance of these resources that support the strategy and upon which it must be based can’t be overemphasized. And one that has the power to destroy the strategy is values. It was Peter Drucker who stated that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Culture is the way values are implemented in an organization. Drucker argued that strategy, as important as it is, will never be enough.

Strategy is a choice a company has made about how to compete and the competitive advantages upon which the choice is based. This advantage is the only basis for superior performance. Yet it will take people to execute on that strategy. Managers will have to make decisions on a daily basis regarding how to allocate the organization’s resources to achieve predetermined objectives. This is what’s really important – translating the decision about how to compete into action. To execute strategy, the company must have the values that can support the strategy.

In its 2000 annual report Enron stated the following as it’s corporate values: Communication. Respect. Integrity. Excellence. They sound pretty good, don’t they? Strong, concise, meaningful. Maybe they even resemble your own company’s values, the ones you spent so much time writing, debating, and revising.

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If so, you should be nervous. Enron also had a great competitive advantage, thanks to its great strategy. Enron’s strategy was deeply rooted in their ability to manage risks. It acquired physical capacity in every market and influenced that investment by creating a flexible pricing structure.

Enron towered for years, a clear statement of competency and great strategy. But as events will turn out, the giant fell on its knees! Enron’s failure was not a consequence of a systematic and planned accounting fraud.

Enron did not fail because of a bad strategy, they did not fail because of a bad vision, Enron failed because of wrong corporate values. In principle Enron had great values but in reality, they meant nothing. The real values the company held were the opposite of what they stated. The result? Culture eat the strategy breakfast!

As competitive pressure intensify and managers struggle to keep the company on the path of productivity and superior performance, it’s important to remember that values are the foundation of any great organization. No organization can be built on deceit, dishonesty and lies.

The key is to understand the importance of clarity of vision. A clear vision illuminates the heart and brightens the path of the organization. When managers resort to cheating and deceit to realize the vision they are suffering from corporate myopia, a condition where management is preoccupied with how to realize its vision and goals that it loses consciousness of the impact of their choices to the competition, their people, customers, the government and the environment. Such a condition is the ultimate failure, eventually the organization will in one way or another be taken out of play.

Dr. Reuben is a strategist, researcher, author, advisor, speaker and teacher. He is the President of The Brian Reuben Organisation and CEO of Africa Economic Summit Group United Kingdom.