Strategy and Organizational Culture Integration

Hakan Ozel, General Manager – Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai

When people ask me what it takes to be successful in business, there is only one answer, which comes to my mind immediately, as I consider my reply to this question: It makes a difference when the subject is culture!

Relationships between the organization’s functional business activities could be exemplified best by focusing on organizational culture as an internal strategy that integrates all departments and divisions. It captures the selfless, cunning, and largely emotional forces and souls that shape a workplace.

Remarkably and sometimes inevitably resistant to change and refine, culture can represent a major strength or weakness of the organization. It can be a significant reason for strengths to drive and achieve, or weaknesses to hinder or fail in any of the business functions. There is little to talk about success in an organization where the weakness is recognized in culture.

Culture is an aspect of organizations that no longer can be taken for granted in performance and internal strategic-management reviews because culture and strategy must work together hand-in-hand and there is no other way. The strategic-management process takes place largely within a particular organization’s culture.

Leaders in successful companies are deeply committed to the culture of their enterprises. It would be a naïve expectation that the desirable performance and subsequent business results, such as customer satisfaction and retention, employee satisfaction, development and retention, maintaining profit with revenue generation and cost control, shareholder value growth, tangible or intangible product development, etc. will be achieved without a proper pairing of each strategic-management element to cultural elements.    

There are certainly challenges in this integration. Leaders frequently miss the significance of continuously changing external conditions because they are biased and blinded by strongly held beliefs. Furthermore, when a particular culture has been effective and successful in the past, natural behavioral response is to stick with it in the future, even during times of effective strategic change, as we do experience today. An organization’s culture must support the collective commitment of its people to a common purpose. It must foster competence and enthusiasm among all members of the organizations, from top to bottom.

Organizational culture significantly affects business plans, decisions, and results, and thus must be carefully evaluated during the internal strategic management reviews. If strategies capitalize on cultural strengths, leadership can implement the changes or address the current plans swiftly and easily. However, if the organization’s culture is not supportive or is inactive, strategic changes or implementations maybe ineffective or even counterproductive, hence it can be a hindering force to new strategies, with the results being confusion, disorientation, and failure.

Leaders should evaluate and strengthen the organizational culture in their enterprises to support the execution of strategic plans. Organization’s culture should infuse individuals with enthusiasm and motivation to run the actual and new strategies and create the environment to succeed.

Understanding the effect that culture captures the largest space in business strategies and modeling the business in perfect relationship will help to deliver desirable business performance and results.  

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