The Guiding Path and The Driving Path

Strategy Won’t Budge Without Culture...

And Culture Won’t Mask Poor Strategy

There is a clear link between culture and strategy, and without both a school, just like in business, won't progress. Both are hard to change. Both take years to develop and move. This is the reason why many companies struggle with huge industry disruptions. The education system is living in a very real period of disruption. Teachers and schools are struggling to adapt to the furious pace of technological innovation. What worked just a few years ago have become obsolete today and, as a system, we are ill-equipped, slow, and encumbered. Thinking has become entrenched but with new strategies and an engaged culture, schools can adapt and excel.

A strategy is necessary to map out where an organisation needs to go. It is there to align the initiatives with the vision of the school. Without it, any organisation would be lost. The blind leading the blind. Maybe it’s a case of too many people pulling in too many directions. Strategy ensures an organisation is moving in one direction, towards one vision. A great strategy produces a 3-star Michelin experience, poor strategy leaves you with cold bland soup.

Culture, on the other hand, is what people do on a day to day basis. It is what people do when no one is looking. It is the invisible glue that holds the entire organisation together. It is this invisibility that often makes culture a topic that is rarely brought up, or dismissed because it is so hard to measure. But disengaged workers won’t execute the strategy and the organisation won’t progress. On the other hand, engaged workers and colleagues share ideas, take risks, support one another, and execute on strategy.

But how are they related…


Culture and Strategy

The interrelatedness of culture and strategy is apparent in the levels of trust that can be observed among individuals of an organisation. As culture and strategy increase, trust increases, and we all know that trust leads to higher collaborations and better outcomes. Good times.

Take a look at the diagram below:

In the optimal zone, great culture and excellent strategy, trust is high, collaboration is present, and the overall feeling is that of satisfaction and happiness. With these in place, any team will walk any strategy. People will do the right thing well.  


The Guiding Path and The Driving Path

If you want to change the practice of your organisation, you must energise how people behave. That is the real power of strategy and culture. One does not lead to the other. Rather they work in tandem. You need to engage your teams in a clear strategic direction, one that has a solid foundation in a provocative vision. You must also unleash your teams and change the norms of how people work and interact. In a way, you must erase parts of the organisational memory that solidif old habits and procedures, ones that inhibit cultural revolution because ‘it is just the way we do things’. The road is hard, and long-term success will likely come with many short-term failures.

Strategy determines the guiding path of your school. It determines the 3, 5, 10 year plans of your school. It determines what targets the school wants to meet. These are the measurables. The things we pull out data for, and the things we justify with data. The guiding path determines the goals, procedures, and activities of the organisation.

Culture determined the driving path. The values, behaviours, and practices that drive real change and execute on the strategies. This is the people aspect of the plan. Without a culture of trust, collaboration, and openness, the road is going to be rocky if not impossible to drive down. Positive cultures provide authentic opportunities for everyone to have their say and contribute to how the strategy is executed.

Is your school ready to start taking both strategy and culture into their planning agendas?