Every day, faced with the same sets of data about their external environment, competitors make different decisions. These decisions will determine who performs the best. It’s culture that plays a big part in the way those decisions are made, and in the nature of what is decided. Aligning culture with strategy is a key determinant of whether you can out–think your competitors.
So what are the cultural factors required to consistently out-think everyone else?
- Firstly, you need the right set of values.
Whilst most good organisations will have customer focus as a value for example , it’s not enough to make them leaders in this field. To set yourself apart from your competitors, you have to have certain characteristics in your culture, certain patterns of behaviour and thinking that are present in the day-to-day to produce optimal results. These will depend on your industry, your priorities and your desired outputs.
- The second factor is a mindset where everyone takes responsibility.
At Walking the Talk, we call this ‘above the line’ thinking. It does something like this: Instead of being passive and blaming others, it asks questions that take ownership of the situation: “Given the wider situation that we are operating in and can’t control, how will we choose to respond, could we have responded differently?”
Organisations with this feature in their culture recognise that in every situation they have the ability – and the choice – to respond any way they want. RESPONSE-ABILITY. Just following a set of guidelines or rules is not enough. People have to think for themselves as well. We see this today in the risk environment: Regulators providing rules and guidelines isn’t enough. To produce the optimal risk culture, you need people who take responsibility for the choices they make, and make them consciously.
Focusing on what we can do differently will consistently produce better results than focusing on who to blame.
- The third factor is a culture of challenge.
To make those decisions that will ultimately give you an advantage, you need an environment where people feel safe to challenge the accepted status quo, even in the face of decisions other competitors are making. Such decisions typically require people having to challenge hard to persuade others that theirs is the right decision, and one that will ultimately pay off. Senior managers, consequently, have to be open to listen. These patterns of behaviour go beyond just having certain values. They map out the type of culture you will need to support and sustain these values in the day-to-day.
The right values + a mindset of responsibility + a culture of making and receiving challenges = a higher likelihood of better decisions.
There will always be terrible luck – the seemingly random set of events that lead to negative events or results occurring at some stage perhaps. But the best cultures do not accept bad luck. They will always seek to out-think others to reduce the extent to which they are subject to luck, and to produce a better outcome for their customers and their shareholders.