“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage for any company.”
An intellectually curious global leader, Troy Taylor is equipped with a framework for deep cultural understanding — crucial for any business. A results-oriented driving force, Troy has worked in numerous companies and has experienced various corporate cultures. Troy shares the importance of assessing your corporate culture as a key performance indicator.
Troy, we discussed the relationship of corporate culture to the ability of an organization to execute its strategy. Can you share some of your insights, and possibly first-hand experience in this area? And how would you apply these insights on a board?
“We are all familiar with the concept of culture when we speak of different nationalities or ethnic groups. Some may define it as the collective experience of society, and the impact it has on our reactions and decision-making relative to every-day facts and circumstances. However, culture goes well beyond nationality or ethnic affiliation. Within each company, there’s corporate culture. It’s seldom written down in a manual or part of a new employee's onboarding process. It’s often difficult to explain and most often taught through experience and observations. Given that it is omnipresent, if the strength and weaknesses of your corporate culture do not inform your strategic decisions and imperatives, I think you’ll run the risk of making lofty goals that will be difficult to execute.
“For example, I’ve had the pleasure of working for two very successful Fortune 50 companies, and their cultures were very different. One had a very “individualistic” culture. They encouraged everyone to gain the skills and capabilities to deliver on the company’s goals and aspirations. Individuals took initiative and stretched themselves in order to be successful. Decisions were quick, and programs were launched almost overnight. In that culture, we got moving quickly however the execution sometimes slow down because not everyone started out on the same page with respect to the ‘where’ and ‘how’. The other company had more of a “collectivistic” culture. In this case, there was a tendency to hold several alignment meetings, one-on-one reviews with senior leadership, use of outside consultants to validate the program, etc. In this culture, the decision-making was slow and was made mostly by committee. The actual approval meeting was more of a formality given that all of the decision-makers had already seen and provided input to the program. In this culture, decision-making was very slow but once it was made, the execution moved quickly. Everyone started out aligned in terms of the “where” and “how”.
“I don’t think one culture is necessarily better than the other, but as a board, one has to be aware of these salient points about culture and how that can enhance the ability to execute strategy. There are a number of other aspects to keep in mind as well — your capabilities, timing, resources, the market, competition, and so on. All these things inform your corporate strategy. However, your corporate culture should be an active and visible part of your risk assessment as you lay out your strategy for success at the board level — or any other level for that matter. So, corporate culture is another one of those key performance indicators that you want to test your strategy against.
“A good example of the need for companies to make sure that their strategy is aligned with their corporate culture is unfolding right now in front of us. With a heightened awareness that companies need to do a much better job when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), many corporations have made bold statements and are setting lofty goals. My advice to many of these companies would be to make sure your strategies for DE&I success are tested against your culture. If your culture needs to evolve make sure that is part of your strategy. Recall the sage advice from Peter Drucker “…Culture eats strategy for breakfast…”.
Thanks for sharing, Troy.
Troy T. Taylor - Intellectually Curious Global Leader
As a results-oriented senior-level executive, I love spearheading new initiatives. I'm not afraid to buck trends and…