Setting a Direction and a Strategy, and Managing the Culture

Setting and articulating a clear, compelling, customer-centered direction is most often put at the top of the list for a leader because without it there is no successful business. The leader must remain current on the present success and future business opportunities and vulnerabilities for the organization. This requires investigating, interpreting and evaluating performance and marketplace data. Proper alignment leads staff to a clear sense of direction and motivation to produce. Constant communication with all stakeholders, with proper feedback loops with all concerned, is essential.

Strategy creates a unique and valuable position by either performing activities different from rivals or performing similar activities in different ways. It requires making clear-cut choices about how to succeed and having the courage to keep competing forces within the organization from over-pressing their own agendas thus unwisely broadening the team’s direction overall. The focus should be on evaluating business effectiveness systematically-with a plan of action, a method of analysis, and constant evaluation.

Managing culture requires the leader to have an understanding of the social order of the organization as it exists, and having the tools to make changes when necessary. Culture defines what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted or rejected within the organization. Four attributes of culture are: it is a group phenomenon; it permeates all levels and applies broadly; it can direct people’s thoughts and actions in the long term; and people recognize and respond to it.

The relationship among leadership, strategy and culture is critical. When properly aligned, they drive positive organizational outcomes. In today’s fast paced business climate there are few companies that can continue to follow a given strategy indefinitely. When change is required, the leader has to reset direction, reset strategy, and manage culture.