leadership and culture drive initiatives

This month’s issue of Harvard Business Review features an article on how to “Eliminate Strategic Overload.” Harvard Business School professor, Felix Oberholzer-Gee shows “how to select fewer initiatives with greater impact.” He concludes, “creating value for customers, employees, and suppliers sits at the very heart of strategies that result in stellar performance. In the best companies, this orientation toward value creation is reflected in every decision made by employees at all levels of the organization. The focus on creating value shows up in big strategic decisions and in small everyday choices.”

However… “The strategic insight is simple; implementing it requires discipline.” He outlines a few key patterns from his “research work with organizations that exemplify value-based strategy:”

  • They focus on value, not profit
  • They attract the employees and customers whom they serve best
  • They create value for customers, employees, or suppliers (or some combination) simultaneously
  • They pursue complements (products/services enhancing their core offering) as a rich source of value creation
  • They shift profit pools to capture value over time

The article is useful as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. Oberholzer-Gee’s glaring gap is failing to connect his value-based strategies to leadership and organizational culture. We’ve long seen — and a growing body of research shows — the Purpose-Profit Paradox. Profit is a means, not an end. Fewer people today want to buy from, work for, or partner with a company that’s only out for itself. Thriving companies pursue both purposeful profits and profitable purpose. Pursuing profits without a higher purpose or pursuing a purpose without profit are both fatal strategies.

Tomorrow we publish my May blog posts in the June issue of The Leader Letter. This issue looks at few aspects of organizational culture. My podcast with BreAnne Okoren starts with a broad look at leadership and then focuses on five steps we’ve found can most effectively shift organizational culture.

We also look at a vital leadership and culture issue of our time: COVID fatigue. Some organizational cultures are creating thriving workplaces during these challenging times. Others…not so much. We’ll learn from key insights in Michelle McQuaid’s recent research on workplace wellbeing and her new report on a Canadian survey comparing her findings to previous American and Australian studies.

An especially exciting medical breakthrough of our pandemic is the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology now used in Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. We’ll get five key elements of outstanding leadership and culture effectiveness directly from the Pfizer CEO based on their success.

I hope you find this is a value-based issue that’s worth far more than you’re paying for it!