Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Did you know that the average corporate manager has, on average, twice has many internals meetings each week than 30 years ago?

And yet there is more information available to be able to make decisions. There is an argument that internal processes are acting as a barrier to business.

We all are involved in strategy discussions. Of course, strategy is important but it is secondary to culture. In Hospitality, very little will beat a strong culture with people that are engaged and wanting to make a difference. One can argue that culture was more important than strategy in the 1980s and 90s but as the rise of technology came through strongly and new markets opened up, strategies and process became more important as the concept of Brands became dominant. Often there would be a belief that the company’s name and brand would do the legwork with customers and clients that used to be covered by those out building relationships – almost to the point whereby internal processes within companies became a block to business action.

However change is now in the air. There is a growing awareness that people are Hospitality’s greatest asset and there are new philosophies developing around HR who once again feel free to focus on the development of the Human asset. Operators too are becoming more aware of the guest’s overall experience and the need to empower the front line staff to ensure that they positively respond to the guest’s journey.

There is an awareness that brands are not entities in themselves but need to have a connection and relationship with their customer. They appeal to the emotional side of the consumer. In an Olympic year it becomes ever more clear as the strength of the Olympics is built off the powerful people stories that emerge that make it so special.

The likes of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps will go down in history especially as it was there show-stopping exits but other stories include when the British nation gasped when Mo Farah tripped and fell mid- race. The tumble didn’t stop the athlete who retained his 10,000m title with a thrilling victory. In the women’s 400m final, Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas somehow managed to win a dramatic gold medal by diving over the line. Miller stumbled in the final stages and then lunged forward as she headed towards the finishing line, winning by 49.44 seconds. Laura Trott won gold in the women’s omnium and then had to sit trackside as her finance Jason Kenny won his third gold of the games. Their one relationship has 10 Olympic gold medals. One of the most inspiration stories was the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny, who won gold and silver in the men’s triathlon. The British brothers collapsed into each other arms at the finish line.

When creating a healthy culture, it needs to become a focal point within the company’s values. Although by putting too much emphasis on culture it simply becomes the business as opposed to strengthening the business. A balance must be found that allows for a fun, comfortable and safe environment and with time spent adding to a person’s life.

A positive and inspiring culture within hospitality should not be placed ahead of strategy, but made a key driver of strategy. Anyone can copy a strategy but nobody can copy a culture. It has to originate somewhere or it will simply not happen. The leader must take responsibility and identify a cultural vision for the company and they must live and breathe it. This behaviour should inspire and involve all employees.

Research tells us that all companies will change.

Workforces will change. Companies will focus on creating a better balance between technology, data information and employing/ empowering great people. L&D programmes will be more focused on developing individuals as great employees can make a real difference. People need to be given freedom and for new leaders to be empowered.

Strong cultures need good leaders – aligned to objectives – on a number of levels and across businesses. The great companies of the past all possessed many leaders, not just a few. Strength lies with depth and within a culture. A strategy can only be a road map. No more.