What Does Your Strategic Plan Say About Your Culture?

February 1, 2022
February 1, 2022 Jamie Notter

We tend to keep strategy and culture separate, yet they are ultimately two sides of the same coin. Your culture should be designed to drive the success of your organization, just like your strategy should be.

That means that your organization’s strategic plan is essentially a cultural artifact. Anyone you share that plan with will see what your culture is like. Unfortunately, for a lot of organizations, here’s what that plan might be saying about their culture:

Our culture values things staying the same. We do not invest in agility. We know that the world will not change much over the next three to five years, and, in fact, we know that we can count on spending an 9-12 months simply scanning and evaluating what has changed in the last 5 years as we prepare for our next plan.

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Our culture does not value uniqueness. We are the same as everyone else in our industry. We have roughly the same plan as most of our colleagues, and there is no need for us to be distinctive or to stand out.

Our culture does not value growth. We set our goals to be slightly ahead of where we are now, because anything greater would be too risky. We maximize our impact simply by staying in business.

I know that most leaders do NOT believe in any of those statements, but remember, your culture doesn’t only exist inside of your beliefs. It is created by all the words, actions, thoughts, and tangible aspects of work (like strategy documents) inside your organization. You may not need to run out and re-write your strategic plan, but if it is, indeed, sending the wrong message, then you need to surround it with systems of execution and metrics that tell a completely different story.

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Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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