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People are loyal to culture, not strategy.

Strategic planning is something widely accepted as an effective business practice. Some would say it’s essential to success. Trying to operate a business without a strategic plan can be like trying to plan a trip without an itinerary. Sure, there are examples of success in the absence of planning. However, accidental success is typically not appealing to most stakeholders. Yet, even the best of strategic plans can possess inherent weaknesses. Some use a strategic plan as artificial comfort, attempting to attach budget allocations to conditions that shift so fast they can render long range plans ineffective in less than a year. The dominant logic of most plans is to get the goals to fit the resources. This can result in mistaking the plan for actual strategy. True strategy encompasses risk−and failure.

The trouble with the cost-revenue model of planning isn’t just the unprecedented pace of change today. Perhaps its greatest weakness exists regarding loyalty. All strategic plans engage people. People are not loyal to a plan. They live in a world where daily change is the norm and adaptability to solve problems depends on the culture of their organization. This is at the heart of all human leadership. Because when it comes down to it, amidst the endless changes in all our lives, people are loyal to culture not strategy.

Developing a strategic plan in the absence of an understanding of organizational culture is like trying to cook a meal without knowledge about the actual ingredients. You might know what kind of flavors you desire but have no idea what ingredients to add and how.

Do you know if your workers feel that they are a contributing member to something important in this world? Do you and they agree with the vision and mission of your organization? Is your organization in harmony with its own culture?

Organizations are typically thought of as groups of people working toward a common set of goals. It’s widely accepted that such entities benefit from common policies, procedures, and methods. What is often missed is that when people group together, they form cultures. Culture can be defined as the system of collective values that distinguishes the members of one group from another (Thomas, 2000). Cultures are far more powerful and influential than policies and procedures. Groups form within almost every organization, driving the overall culture. It is important to understand that culture is an integrated pattern of beliefs derived from shared attitudes, values, practices, and goals across a group. This is what people are loyal to—culture.

Remember: People are loyal to culture, not strategy.

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