Strategy / Culture Alignment

work effects

Strategy / Culture Alignment workshop @ Work Effects (7/11/18 – 7/12/18)

I enjoyed a high-octane dose of Michael Stewart’s methodology around strategy / culture alignment in the luxurious and trendy Work Effects space at Baker Center.

My context: I’m currently focused on systematic innovation (“all roads lead to SI”) and, related to that focus, “culture of innovation”. I’m also interested in integration of strategy / execution and — as Michael confirmed — culture is a key element of execution. Strategy can’t activate in a vacuum — it needs to activate through culture. Culture will either accelerate or decelerate the execution of strategy.

A particular culture may need to adapt to systematic innovation; systematic innovation may need to adapt to a particular culture.

baker center


Some key elements of the WE model:

culture is not health (organizational health)

culture has specific dimensions; the WE SCA model has 10 dimensions

each dimension can be evaluated (qualitatively) on a spectrum of 10 positions

the spectrum for culture (unlike health, which is good to bad) is “good to good”

we are identifying relative / qualitative differences that aren’t inherently good or bad; they are just attributes of a particular culture

the key is how well the elements of culture are aligned with a particular strategy

we can actually measure (quantitatively) the alignment between strategy and culture

strategy is “what”; culture is “how”

in most cases, culture should adjust to strategy; in some cases, strategy may need to adjust to culture

in any case, strategy and culture should be moving toward alignment

their movement toward alignment can be measured over time

michael stewart

After covering the basic principles of the WE model, Michael “extracted” two case studies from workshop participants, so the case studies were rich and robust, not fabricated. The principles became concrete and the model came to life as we applied it to each case study. We identified areas of alignment and mis-alignment and prioritized potential opportunities for improvement. The shared experience of the whole group working on the same case studies produced a social learning effect. Developing each case study interactively with the sharp intellect of my colleagues was energizing and productive.


This immersion into the tension between strategy and culture (as “what” and “how”) has sharpened my perspective on systematic innovation and “culture of innovation” in the organizational and strategic context. I’m reminded that innovation is part of the “how” and I need to be ever so vigilant about identifying the “what” that lies on the other side of that “how”… and finding ways to align with it.

I also observed that the WE SCA model is an integrated design / implementation approach. Most current approaches to change management are dis-integrated — they adopt a change that has been determined by an external process and manage “the human side of change” with static training and communication. Change can’t possibly be human-centric if design and implementation are not integrated. Change management, if it is to be responsive to a VUCA world, must evolve toward a more dynamic and integrated design / implementation approach. Change practitioners, likewise, must evolve toward leading a design process that is both distributed and iterative.


I recently presented on systematic innovation in concurrent development at the SCPD webinar series.

I will be presenting on systematic innovation in UX at DevJam / Product Agility on 8/14/18.


post @ LinkedIn: “Adventures in Strategy / Culture Alignment




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