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12 Dec 2011

Great Strategy? Don’t Neglect Culture

Many companies are finalizing their 2012 strategies by planning their roll out to their employees. To this effort, Nilofer Merchant’s March 22, 2011 post on the HBR Blog Network, “Culture Trumps Strategy, Every Time,” is very apropos and relates to my “Best Decision as Myth” post: we often spend more time trying to make the best decision than we do trying to ensure we can implement it. A vital aspect of that implementation is a healthy company culture.

Taking Merchant’s themes further, an important part of a healthy company culture is the relationship between management and employees. That is more than just having a great vision, definable roles and enforcing accountability. It’s about doing the sublime relational techniques that mean so much even though they don’t seem to serve a direct business purpose. For instance, it’s important for managers to spell their people’s names correctly. Yes, unfortunately, this isn’t an automatic.

I’ve called this placebo management. If there is scientific evidence supporting the positive effect of placebos in medicine, they can work in business too. While managers are taught around the world in business schools about the more concrete aspects of visions, goals, compensation, information and credentials in developing relationships, they rarely learn the more intuitive aspects of relationships. Consequently, they never learn how to change the message without changing anything about it. Conversely, they don’t learn that even the best message can be ruined by a lousy messenger.

The holiday season is approaching and many companies and teams get together in celebration and camaraderie. It’s often a time to develop business relationships on a more human level. Good interpersonal relationships we develop with employees ensure a company culture that can implement strategy. Let’s make every month the holiday season in this regard.


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