Aligning Strategy, Culture, and Leadership

I have had the honor of teaching several post-graduate classes on leadership for several universities. One key area I focus on is acclimating my students to the core concepts of scholarship. Among the realm of scholars, we must reference the courses for the vast majority of our statements, as well as our operational models and ideas. When it comes to organizational culture, one of the key researchers I reference most is Dr. Edgar Schein.

Dr. Schein is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and a Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has long investigated organizational culture, process consultation, research process, career dynamics, and organization learning and change. Many consider him to be the "father" or organizational culture studies. In an interview addressing the alignment of strategy, culture, and leadership (Darling, 2017), he emphasized that these three elements do not exist in a vacuum.

"Organizations don't start with a new culture--they have existing cultures, and the strategy they are using today is the product of what they've learned over their own history, which might be one year, or it might be a 100 years, depending on which company we are talking about. The main consequence is that a part of strategy is totally constrained by the culture that a group already has. Strategy can't be treated as an independent thing to analyze. It always has to be analyzed in the context of "how have we gotten here, what is our product, what is our identity, what is our market?" All of those things are part of strategy, and all of them have already been learned. That's all point number one."

"You can enhance parts of strategy, but then you have to check right way that these strategic changes go in a new direction that will be "allowed" by the existing culture."

What Dr. Schein is highlighting here is often overlooked by many leaders stepping into existing organizations. People are loyal to the cultures of their organizations, not strategy. Strategy must be aligned with culture in increments of time as shifting objectives are identified and pursued. It's not enough to have a strategic plan, no matter how inclusive. Leaders must know and deeply understand the cultures of their groups, departments, and organizations. The assumptions, values, and celebrations (artifacts) of those organizations comprise and define their cultures. So, how can leaders quantify their organizational cultures?

The Organizational Culture Harmonics System (OCH)

If you've been seeking a way to "quantify" your organizational culture to better align with your strategic plan, consider the Organizational Culture Harmonics System. Unlike the vast majority of personality-based instruments and systems, this person-organization fit approach is not based on organizational satisfaction. It depicts a quantitative alignment across a "harmonic scale" along which a leader can track movements of their organizational culture. These harmonic movements are depicted in a recently developed Web-enabled dashboard. Leaders can even drill down to individual users, with metrics tracking probable "cusp-events" as members move from core, to participant, to outliers in their organizations.

You can see a video designed for organizational leaders adopting the Organizational Culture Harmonics system at the link below. At Anaveno LLC, we believe that the work of researchers like Dr. Edgar Schein offers critical insights to increased levels of success in your organization. Contact us today for more on the OCH System and our new Web-enabled OCH Dashboard. Start leveraging the absolute power of your organization's unique culture, and aligning its full capabilities with your strategy and leadership assets today!

Video Overview


Darling, J. (2017). A conversation with Edgar Schein: Aligning strategy, culture, and leadership. People & Strategy, 40(2), 64-68.

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