Culture and strategy

In most organizations, culture and strategy tend to be discussed in separate conversations.

Executives know that a negative culture can hurt company performance, but they may not know how to deal with it.

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Starbucks company culture

Walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the world, and you will find a consistently comfortable and welcoming ambiance. You don't get that simply by telling your staff to be warm and friendly.

  • Starbucks has built a capability to foster a relationship-driven, employees-first approach, which encourages close relationships between staff.
  • The feel of Starbucks stores exists because the people behind the counter understand how their work fits into a common purpose. They know how to accomplish great things together.
  • Employees are called "partners." Even part-time staff in the U.S. receive stock options and health insurance.
  • During the health-crisis, Starbucks chose to invest in their staff training.
  • Starbucks understands the importance of having employees of diverse backgrounds to create a welcoming environment.

When most companies try to improve their culture, they focus on the negative aspects and try to improve them. Although this may sound reasonable, the opposite approach is more successful.

  • Identify a few positive attributes within your culture that are connected directly to the identity and specific capabilities that are driving success in your business.
  • Find ways to increase and extend them throughout the organization to counterbalance some of the negative aspects of your culture.
  • Articulate the critical attributes of your business that people care about, and that can help move your strategy forward.
  • In time, great behaviors and attributes will replace the negative aspects of your culture.

This approach has far more power than a “culture initiative” because it lets people bring their own emotional energy to a business where they feel they have a stake.

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