Every travel article you read covering exotic vacation destinations always recommends taking in the local culture whenever possible. The reason for this suggestion is simple, if you want to understand a destination, go off the beaten path and see everything how it’s meant to be. For example, if you spend all of your time in Times Square, you’re missing how wonderful New York City can really be. Think about your average work day, are you spending most of your time in meetings? Meetings focus on the ideal and rarely focus on what’s really going on. It’s the business equivalent to hanging around Times Square, why not ditch the guide book and go and see your organization’s culture first hand.
What does this have to do with strategic planning? In a word: everything. In my experience culture has as much to do with the execution of the plan as the content contained within the plan. If a culture of shared responsibility and a general excitement for the future is lacking, you’re facing a losing battle. This is why spending time diagnosing your culture is an important step in realizing the strategic direction of your organization. Why are companies like: Apple, Disney, Southwest Airlines, and Zappo’s successful? Everyone in the company believes in the mission and vision. This sense of purpose generates a culture where everyone is working towards the greater good.
Just think back upon a job you loved during your career. I don’t care if it’s a summer internship or when you worked with your uncle’s roofing company. For me it was my time working in a summer camp in my hometown. I got to work outside and shape the lives of 4th and 5th graders in my community. I didn’t think of my job as work, I loved every minute in that park. I believed in the mission and vision, so going to work wasn’t a chore.
How do you generate that excitement in your organization? Stop scheduling endless meetings and speak candidly with your colleagues and coworkers. Believe it not, people generally want to be part of something bigger than themselves. This sense of purpose is what many of the great companies have embedded in their DNA. Harness the same excitement that you had in that favorite job and everyone around you will begin to align themselves with you mission / vision. Before you know it, you’ll see your organization as a local and not a tourist.