Management Matters: How to Align Strategy and Culture

Most of the people I talk to think we are living in an exhausting, always changing, and increasingly complex and often worrisome world. While dreaming of a slower pace, most have come to accept that not only is the way things are the current reality, when things DO change, the shift won’t be to something more relaxed, and slow paced.

Many organization struggle with changes in the external environment, and as a result, it creates struggles in the workplace. Because of this, organizational alignment is an important concept for leaders to grasp.

Don’t be Confused
If you get confused by terms organizations use to describe what they think, do, and want, you are not alone. To gain some clarity, it helps to see things in terms of observable behaviors:

What we think is strategy

What we do is culture

Organizational culture is a strategic asset when values, policies, and practices are consistent. Strategy and culture shape and support what people do at work.

  • STRATEGY – Defines what gets done. Goals are created. Objectives are defined. Activities are clear.
  • CULTURE – Describes how things usually get done. Values are articulated. Practices are described. Behaviors are defined.

The most effective organizations insure that there is alignment between the two. Sadly, that alignment is often the very thing that is missing.

A strong level of alignment, especially at executive leadership levels is critical for effective performance; not only now but for the future as well. It can be very complicated to accomplish this.

ALIGNMENT is hard. Assuming your strategy is sound, you are now adding employees into the mix and you are hoping that their daily actions and decisions support the strategic direction your organization and its’ culture. That’s where things start to go badly. Why?

Things go badly when:
The message from Executive Leadership changes as it flows through the various layers of management, losing consistency at each level.

Employees don’t see WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and management fails to connect desired behaviors with recognition and rewards.

Employees are unaware of the factors that may create misalignment (even if they are part of the reason).

Few people understand how to connect their individual job descriptions to the organization’s overall strategy.

Organizational plans are too complicated to be easily understood. No one seems interested in simplifying things so that everyone understands it.

So Try:

Define alignment behaviors. Use some resources toward new and desired behaviors. Recognize and reward those who adopt the (new) behaviors you are hoping to see.

Live your values. Examine the key elements of your organizational strategy and connect your team to them.

Align your team practices so that they promote commitment. Look for opportunities to celebrate success. Be open to innovative ways to create recognition.

Model the organizational values.
If people are your biggest asset, treat them with care and show interest in their well-being both personally and professionally.

Ineffective leaders often attempt to use control to get the results they seek. Effective leaders get people to be motivated to work with them for the organization.

Which kind of leader are you?

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership, management, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 30 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at