If Culture Drives Strategy Who Drives Culture?

visual courtesy: www.quoteshunter.com
visual courtesy: http://www.quoteshunter.com

Organizations oft forget that at the core of their existence are people. Employees, customers, partners each in their own way define an organization. The common denominator is People. The behaviour people display through their individual understanding, acceptance and ownership of organizational values reflects the culture of that organization.

This creates a brand experience which impacts profitability and sustainability.

Amongst the stakeholders of a brand employees are the single most important group. Yet, often, when we are developing a brand experience we fail to recognize and incorporate the culture that’s in play.

A critical ingredient in developing a desired brand experience is to ensure there is clear empowerment of individuals. An organization where the employee feels empowered to contribute ideas inspires employees to strive for delivering to the best of his/her abilities and results in engagement.

This engagement leads to specific behaviour that is aligned with the organisational values and manifests as the work culture. Strong teamwork is visible. Positivity is visibly felt and success of individual activities occurs.

Activating a culture creation plan is not easy. It takes time, persistence, consistency, support of the Board and most importantly clarity of business goals, functional roles and individual development.


As individuals our names give us part of our identity. So also with brands who have their names and logos. But that’s half the job done. Our personality and behaviour, with our name, provides the full experience of ourselves when we interact with another person. Together this makes for our complete identity. Similarly brands, through employees and their behaviour coupled with organisational processes, create specific experiences for a brand stakeholder that lead to having a complete identity of a brand.

Where brands are concerned the specific experience a stakeholder goes through is purely dependent on two factors:

  1. Employee behaviour
  2. Organisational processes

The impact of behaviour and service quality, in terms of process, creates either a positive or negative perception of the brand in the stakeholders’ mind and affects the buying decision and ultimately impacts on the bottom-line of the business.



Developing an effective corporate culture is not an external effort. It is purely an internal exercise that needs as much attention and planning for effective implementation, as the regular functions of an organisation.

The leadership of an organisation needs to provide clarity of its business and the brand experience it wants stakeholders to have. This then needs alignment between organisational and departmental goals and desired behaviour of employees.

Changing behaviour is very difficult.

Work habits are part of our individual cultural make-up that we carry with us when we walk into a job. Affecting change requires having a consistent engagement program through which employees clearly feel and get a feeling of pride and value.

Four Steps to Developing an Employee Engagement Program:

  1. Identify the platform on which the culture would be based. The ethics and social norms it would want to promote and foster among all its stakeholders. Based on this ethical platform determine the values that the brand should stand for.
  2. Inform and internalize these values to the employees by clearly linking them to their work functions and relating back as to how not projecting the same affects the brand and in turn affects the bottom-line. Provide as much clarity to employees here to show the impact on revenue.
  3. Get the employees involved. Get employees to write down, in their own words, how they would project the values in terms of their behaviour.
  4. Ensure measurement. A measurable, performance indicator has to be in place which should be clearly explained to the employee and ensured that comprehension is there.


Having initiated the program, keeping momentum is extremely important. A structured internal communications program, aimed at regularly highlighting organizational achievements and the responsible team or employee who achieved it will aid the program significantly.

What this does is:

  1. It informs the organisation as to who’s championing specific activities.
  2. It creates peer acknowledgement for the high performers.
  3. It motivates the competitive spirit within divisions to do their bit and get their names on the communication roster.

As a team employees move in one planned direction in delivering the desired brand experience. This benefits the brand as all stakeholders receive a very positive brand experience. In turn this strengthens the brand relationship with the stakeholder and leads to increasing revenue.


Across Asia corporate cultures are still largely governed by the ‘command-and-control’ leadership practices that actually alienate employees.  Instead of people being the key focal point for a brand in developing its relationships, the focus is on profits through higher sales & lower costs.

Gunning for increasing profits, year on year, is not wrong. Any business needs to be profitable. That’s why it’s in business. But the strategy to profitability needs to take into account the community and society the business operates in. Without a clear benefit to both any business would not be sustainable in the long-term.

As managers we veer away from undertaking new approaches because we are conditioned to be risk-minimisers & profit-maximisers through years of doing it.

Here’s the catch—as a business leader if you do not put your people first and focus on what benefits them, how can you get them to give a positive brand experience to the stakeholders who matter to you and who pay the revenue the business generates?


Get involvement.

Involvement is the critical element. Intuitively we all understand what involvement is and how powerful a force it can be. When we are told to do something, we do it and then tend to forget about it. But when we are involved in something, we tend to be possessive and own it on an emotive level. 

When emotions come into play passion emerges and enables for a strong, positive experience to take place. This leads to developing trust. As trust grows, relationships strengthen and repeat usage and referrals occur.

The question to ask—is there involvement?

Involvement requires that a strong group process, where meetings and interactions take on a deeper meaning, be in place. A deeper meaning where one focuses more on authentic and honest conversations that emanate from appreciating and valuing the people on the team and not letting personal biases and egos come in the way.

Once a strong group process is in place it leads to strong relationships within individuals for implementing the planned activities. As each individual owns the activity ensuring quality deliverables in terms of content and channel is not hard. As a result of this each interaction of the brand goes to become more personal, emotive and honest. Together it leads to having a positive brand experience.


By taking the pains of involving & engaging employees and defining the culture, organisations can build up a very strong competitive advantage that results on both a strong brand identity as well as a healthy bottom line.

A positive and enriching brand experience is the output of having involved and engaged employees. Such experiences become the differentiator for a business vis-à-vis its competitor and leads to increased business through referrals and re-purchase thus impacting positively on the bottom line.