Strategic Management: Formulation and Implementation

4. The Cultural Approach

This approach extends the Collaborative Approach to lower levels in the organization as an answer to the strategic management question "How can I get my whole organization commited to our golas and strategies?"

The strategic leader concentrates on establishing and communicating a clear mission and purpose for the organization and the allowing employees to design their own work activities with this mission. He plays the role of coach in giving general direction, but encourages individual decision-making to determine the operating details of executive the plan.

The implementation tools used in building a strong corporate culture range from such simple notions as publishing a company creed and singing a company song to much complex techniques.

These techniques involve implementing strategy by employing the concept of "third-order control." First-order control is direct supervision; second - order control involves using rules, procedures, and organizational structure to guide behavior. Third - order control is more subtle - and potentially more powerful. It consists of influencing behavior through shaping the norms, values, symbols, and beliefs that managers and employees use in making day-to-day decisions.

This approach begins to break down the barriers between "thinkers" and "doers."

The Cultural Approach has a number of advantages which establish an organization-wide unity of purpose. It appears that the cultural approach works best where the organization has sufficient resources to absorb the cost of building and maintaining the value system.

However, this approach also has several limitations. First, it only works with informed and intelligent people. Second, it consumes enormous amounts of time to install. Third, it can foster such a strong sense of organizational identity among employees that it becomes a handicap; for example, bringing outsider in a top management levels can be difficult because they aren't accepted by other executives.

The strongest criticism of this approach is that it has such an overwhelming doctrinal air about it, and foster homogeneity and inbreeding.