Your Culture Playbook

Strategy, Structure, People

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

When you think about your business culture it comes down to these three things: strategy, structure, and people.

Strategy: basically this just means what do you plan to do and how you will get it done. There are a lot of books on how to build a great strategy, a winning strategy, an innovative strategy, and visionary strategy, and so on. You can learn a lot from reading about strategy including how to build an action plan. I have found the most important thing about a strategy is making sure you build one that you LOVE, that inspires you and others. If your strategy does not get you excited, and motivated, then it will collect dust on a shelf somewhere.

Ask yourself: What do you want?

And then ask yourself: What would you be willing to GIVE UP or STOP DOING in order to make your dream come true?

Every goal will come with some kind of letting go of something else. Why? Because you would have already achieved your desired future state if it could be achieved by doing everything you have been doing up to now. Right? So, if you continue on the exact same path you are on right now, why would you expect a different result? What you could expect is to keep getting the results you’ve gotten so far. If you are happy with your results, then keep doing what you are doing. If you want something different, then do something different.

Your strategy will of course contain many elements including what makes good business sense. Just don’t forget that it needs to be something that really lights you up and that others also think is really exciting, including clients and potential clients.

Photo by Alain Pham on Unsplash

Structure: This means all the things you put into place that either help you or get in your way of achieving the goals of your strategy. This includes all of your policies both formal and informal. It’s also about procedures. Put simply, it’s about what you say you do, and what you actually do. For many of us, these are different. It’s important to stop and think about what you say you believe in and how you act.

Actions speak louder than words.

My grandfather told me this when I was about eight years old. He also told me to be careful what I say because you can never take back the words you utter. Words including those you jot down in documents (policies, strategy, communication plans, marketing materials, etc.) are very important. And like my grandfather said, be careful what you put out there. Especially now, when everything you say and write can live forever.

But it’s how you act that counts. How you treat your coworkers, how you show up at meetings, whether you collaborate or hoard work, if you choose to be kind or lash out at others. And I’m not just talking about the behavior of leaders. It’s about behavioral expectations of everyone at your business. How are you holding others accountable? Do you have a no-asshole rule, and is it strictly enforced? If not, you may have a mismatch between who you say you are, and who you actually are.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

People: You can have a winning strategy, but a lousy structure and people will not want to work for you or with you. You can have a great structure, and integration between who you say you are and what you actually do, but no real game plan for what you want to accomplish, and people will not want to work for you.

It takes both strategy and structure to build a foundation where people want to join you, and keep working with you. A lot of businesses rely on the people to achieve its goals. So how are your people? Have you created a place where they can thrive? If they are not thriving, they are likely looking around to see if there is a better place to go, one that will value them more, notice their talents, and create a better work environment.

People want to know that a business and its leaders care about them. Even the most internally competitive workplaces must demonstrate purpose and care. And the Millennial Generation will also ask how you are making the world a better place. Are you prepared to answer that question?

Taking care of your people goes way beyond just having good benefits and competitive pay. It means you involve people, ask their opinions on the big stuff (and the little stuff), help them see how they fit in with the business strategy and purpose. It means taking care of your most important asset. Treating your people as if they are the most important part of your business. And you can’t pretend to care. You have to actually care.

After years of studying culture, my thoughts have come down to these three things: strategy, structure, and people. This is your Playbook- build these three things and you will achieve your dream.



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denise gaskin, ph.d.

denise gaskin, ph.d.


“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist