“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”
There are the obvious reasons why some strategic plans fall at the first hurdle. Inadequacies such as failing to gather data from the business environment, not taking into account the resources required, a malfunction in converting the goal to a detailed route map, work streams not owned by specific people etc. In reality then these ‘plans’ do little more than represent a wish or rough direction of travel with a corresponding reduced chance of success.
There is a plethora of guidance out there to help us avoid these pitfalls and this is largely academic in nature e.g. the use of specific tools and anagrams such as SWOT analysis & SMART goals.
But what of the second hurdle?
From my own experience of leading organisations and from hearing the stories of my coaching clients, the issue of organisational culture is one that often gets missed or only given cursory attention and yet it is often the issue that scuppers the best laid Gantt charts.
The reality is that notions of culture are less tangible, more ambiguous and do not lend themselves well to being understood using an academic frame of reference. I am often struck by the granular detail with which a strategy is proposed but the lack of attention paid to how this may play out in the real world i.e. with the people that have to implement and live with the strategy.
It seems that sometimes the question of culture is simply too difficult and therefore ignored or shied away from and not allowed to carry any weight in proceedings. The harsh reality is that whether we are comfortable with it or not, organisations are complex social organisms and so often represent the rocks on which are strategic ships are scuttled.
Whether we like it or not dysfunctional group think, dynamics, mores, fantasies and taboos etc are often more powerful than the call to action. Hierarchy and chain of command often failing to be the pivotal agent for change, leaving leadership floundering and pushing against the river.
The coaching process can be a powerful space to explore issues of this nature, to reflect and broaden our understanding and thereby enable the intangible to become more tangible and the cultural blind spot to become more visible, leading to greater impact moving forward.
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