Monday, November 3, 2014

Tug-of-War: Strategy vs Culture (Part 2)

Picking up from Part 1, to align culture with strategy to achieve mission impact, at Bethany College we executed an action plan to build the preferred, new culture keeping the best of the “clan culture” (charming small college) and adding elements of innovative and competitive cultures.

As a result, the distance from where we began to where we were going created a tug-of-war within the college. One end (A) of the rope stood the stagnant-clan culture of 2007 characterized by talking only about mission, normalizing mediocrity, prioritizing loyalty over performance, and thinking we're good. The other end (B) stood our preferred innovative-competitive culture characterized by being guided toward vision, expecting quality, prioritizing performance over loyalty, and thinking we can be great.

Our Guest Blogger is Dr. Ed Leonard, President
of Bethany College (Lindsborg, KS)
Knowing from the beginning a new culture and break-through results would create tension, the board and senior leadership stood firm on our end (B), refusing to lower our aspirations or back-off our strategy.

We also knew we could strengthen the pull on our end (B) through new hires by recruiting the right people who shared the new culture and direction.

We observed how faculty and staff responded differently to the tension. Some responded creatively with the energy to lead the college’s emerging disruptive innovation. Others responded competitively with the energy to shape the college’s competitive advantage. Yet others sadly responded to the tension emotionally, opted out, and left the college. We learned getting the right people in the right seat also takes an understanding of how they respond to the tension of change and results.

Here is what I hope you take away. If you want your mission to have impact, you need a bold strategy. A bold strategy needs culture aligned with it. Aligning culture to strategy creates tension. Don't relieve the tension by lowering aspirations or backing off strategy. Manage the tension by getting the right people on the bus who embrace the tension as creative and/or competitive. Then watch your organization sling-shot forward!

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment