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The telling question!

I read a discussion a while back in a LinkedIn group that asked “When would projects or programs be strategically aligned?”  The question seemed so bizarre to me that I clicked through to read the full discussion.  The detail didn’t explain the question much further, but it seemed that the writer was indeed asking that question (I thought he might have missed out the word “not” after ‘programs’!!)

Talk about asking a telling question!  If any of my clients asked me this, I’d be seriously worried about firstly, how they spent their time, and secondly, whether I should be spending my time and energy working with them.  It’s very enlightening when someone asks a question that so clearly should only ever be asked in the reverse.

If he had put the ‘not’ in there after programs, that would make sense.  It would show that he understood that projects and programs should always be strategically aligned, but was wondering if there was ever a time they wouldn’t be.  In other words, ‘I understand the rule, but is there ever an exception?’  And likely there are one or two exceptions.

But he asked it the other way, as if the rule was the reverse – the rule is that projects and programs are not required to be strategically aligned, so is there ever an exception when they should be aligned?  So presumably in his organization, there is little or no link between the strategy, and the projects that are undertaken – no link between strategy and implementation.  Therefore people are busy implementing something other than strategic priorities.  Hmmmm…..

It’s often the way in which questions are asked that indicate common practice in an organization.  If culture, practices and processes do not require people to think about strategy, and align their decisions and priorities with the strategies, then that culture will not encourage strategic thinking, nor be successful in implementing strategies and achieving long term goals.

What types of questions do people in your organization ask about priorities, decisions and projects – and what does that indicate about strategic thinking in your organization’s culture?

Is Culture more important than Strategy?

I’ve read this so often lately I feel compelled to comment. I’m not sure whose behind this – consultants who haven’t had much luck getting clients to develop and implement strategy successfully? Tertiary institutions with money for research on organization culture? Whatever the cause, it smacks of a new fad to me. And what’s the bet a whole lot of organizations will get conned to start analysing their culture (using a consultant with a new ‘tool’ of course) to find out how they can be more successful? Don’t fall for it!!

Developing and implementing strategy can be tricky, it’s true. And it requires that tedious and exhausting task called Thinking! No time for that of course. No time to think about what’s changing out there, or what should be changing in here. No time to get the team on board. No time to properly implement. No wonder strategy failed!

So is culture the panacea? If we know our culture, can we play to its strengths and use that as our competitive advantage? Sounds much easier that all that strategic thinking. Just tap into what’s already there and hey presto! Success will come.

Well…..maybe.  If the strengths of your culture are likely to achieve your long term goals. Or if you can alter your business focus and goals to suit your culture (do I hear “forget the customer, let’s do what we like doing” about now?)

Yes it all sounds marvellous doesn’t it? Problem is that it’s hit and miss whether your existing culture will deliver success. After all, if that’s the case, shouldn’t you already be wildly successful?  Hmmm – slight problem.

Here’s an idea though – how about figuring out what type of culture WILL deliver on your long term goals? Then set about developing that. Gosh – sounds like Strategy to me.

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