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The Importance of Strategy Supportive Culture

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By Dr. Tomi Wahlström |

Developing organizational culture is an important part of strategic management. No strategy succeeds without a strategy supportive organizational culture. This is not any different in sport organizations than any other organizations. At the end, people are the final frontier. They make or break even the best written strategic plan. Plans are just plans written by executives but implementing them requires strategic management. This involves leadership and motivating people. Without motivation, people will not implement what executives want them to implement. People must be empowered to feel engaged before they are ready to implement. Executives can force compliance but true loyalty and engagement is earned. There is a difference between continuance commitment or normative commitment and affective commitment. Strategy supportive cultures engage and empower people while creating affective commitment and organizational citizenship behaviors. People work towards established and collectively agreed upon goals when they are intrinsically motivated to do so. They cannot be forced to do so in a way that would create quality performance. It has been well established that executives that use expert and referent power over positional and coercive power are more effective in long-term. These types of leaders understand that leaders have followers while managers have subordinates. Organizations that have strategy supportive cultures are led by visionary leaders. They have flat and organic organizational structures, and they value and trust their employees.

Culture building is an intentional process and must start from the top. Leaders must demonstrate genuine care and communicate vision. It is also important to recruit people who are a good fit and socialize them well. This process starts from great orientation and good job training. People become part of the culture when they are properly initiated. It is not accidental. Organizational design and development are essential areas to be understood by strategic leaders who build high performance organizations. Culture is built by establishing a clear code of conduct and implementing a systematic training program to teach people the intended organizational values and principles. Great cultures have great traditions and initiation rites. They have mechanisms to continuously promote desired behaviors and support established value systems. This culture building involves everyone in the organization. It is not a top down activity. It is not done to people but rather by the people and with the people. Participative decision making and quality circles are just some of the features of good organizational cultures. These cultures are flexible and continuously changing. They are open minded and inclusive to all types of diversity. Some would call them learning organizations. When you experience one you will be able to feel it and recognize it. These organizations are highly successful and well performing. They are not country clubs. Instead, they are energized and optimized for strategy implementation. They are innovative and competitive. In these organizations, people are the main competitive advantage.

Dr. Tomi Wahlström is Vice President of Academic Affairs at the United States Sports Academy.

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