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"Culture eats strategy for breakfast", as what Peter Drucker was supposed to have said.


This quote was supposed to be made in the context that if you'd want to implement strategy that will effect change in your organisation.


At the same time, culture is not a feel-good, fluffy thing that is only reserved for those with a lot of time and budget and could not figure out better usages of those abundant time and budget.  Rather, culture is about unashamedly achieving outstanding results.

Hence, this month's topics:

  1. The Defining Elements of a Winning Culture; and

  2. There’s No Such Thing as a Culture Turnaround

This issue's main article is on "The Defining Elements of a Winning Culture", and it focuses on how you can achieve stunningly outstanding results through a winning culture that you can develop on your own.


To read the rest of this newsletter, pls. click here (


The Defining Elements of a Winning Culture


by Michael C. Mankins


A company’s culture can have a powerful impact on its performance. Culture is the glue that binds an organization together and it’s the hardest thing for competitors to copy.  As a result, it can be a lasting source of competitive advantage. Take these examples:

  • Kent Thiry builds a values-focused culture at DaVita and transforms the company from a laggard to the world’s leading provider of kidney dialysis services

  • Alan Mulally creates a “working–together” spirit at Ford Motor Company that focuses and re-energizes the automaker, reversing a decades-long slide in market share

  • Herb Kelleher fosters a culture of employee empowerment and cost containment at Southwest, enabling the airline to become one of the world’s most admired and profitable carriers

  • Steve Jobs builds a challenging culture at Apple — one where ”reality is suspended” and ”anything is possible”’ — and the company becomes the most valuable on the planet

But culture doesn’t always produce great results. In fact, when my colleagues at Bain & Company surveyed more than 400 senior executives from large, global companies last year, they found that fewer than one in four felt that culture was very effective in supporting business performance at their company.  The majority felt that their organization’s culture was largely disconnected from what it took to win.

Why this disconnect?  In our experience, too many companies think of culture as a way to make people feel good about where they work and not as a way to help employees — hence the organization — perform better.  High-performing companies think about culture differently.  They know that
winning cultures aren’t just about affiliation; they are also unashamedly about results.

Our research suggests that winning cultures are comprised of two interrelated and reinforcing elements. First, every high-performing company has a unique identity — distinctive characteristics that set it apart from other organizations. These characteristics give employees a sense of meaning just from being part of the company. They also create passion for what the company does.

Southwest Airlines is the classic example.  Under Herb Kelleher’s leadership, the company became known for its sense of humor, irreverence, and focus on the employee.  This unique identity not only made flying Southwest fun for passengers, it made its labor force more productive. Flight attendants, not cleaning crews, cleaned aircraft between flights, reducing time at the gate and improving on-time performance. Maintenance workers routinely devised better ways to maintain Southwest’s fleet of 737 aircrafts, lowering costs and improving up-time. The company’s unique identity reinforced many of the elements that were critical to Southwest’s strategy, such as keeping costs low. As a result, Southwest is the world’s largest low-cost carrier and is consistently among the most profitable airlines in the world.

Culture is more than just a unique identity, however. The best performing companies typically display a set of performance attributes that align with the company’s strategy and reinforce the right employee behaviors. Our research revealed seven of these:

  1. Honest. There is high integrity in all interactions, with employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders;

  2. Performance-focused. Rewards, development, and other talent-management practices are in sync with the underlying drivers of performance;

  3. Accountable and owner-like. Roles, responsibilities, and authority all reinforce ownership over work and results;

  4. Collaborative. There’s a recognition that the best ideas come from the exchange and sharing of ideas between individuals and teams;

  5. Agile and adaptive. The organization is able to turn on a dime when necessary and adapt to changes in the external environment;

  6. Innovative. Employees push the envelope in terms of new ways of thinking; and

  7. Oriented toward winning. There is strong ambition focused on objective measures of success, either versus the competition or against some absolute standard of excellence.

Few organizations exhibit all seven of these attributes. But high-performing organizations typically spike on the three or four that are most critical to their success.

Take Ford Motor Company. When Alan Mulally became CEO at Ford in 2006, the company operated in regional silos. As a result, the Ford Focus in Europe was different from the Ford Focus in the Americas. The company had too many brands, too many platforms, too many disparate parts, too many suppliers, and so on. To turn the automaker around, Mulally focused on building One Ford — a leadership model based on collaboration, innovation, and a desire to win (again). With time, leaders at the automaker started working together to simplify and streamline the company globally. They rationalized brands, consolidated automotive platforms, made options and parts more common and designs more innovative. In just three years, Ford went from losing share and money to gaining share and making money.

Culture plays a vital role in performance. Winning cultures treat performance as an explicit output and foster an environment that is conducive to generating the best possible results — not just for employees, but for customers, suppliers, and, yes, even shareholders.


Michael C. Mankins is a partner at Bain & Company. He is based in San Francisco and heads Bain's Organization Practice in the Americas.


Need help in developing winning cultures in your company? Simply e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.

Power Breakfast Hour:  15 Apr 2014

Is Strategy Design & Implementation a Science or an Art?  (It's Both!)

by Special Guest Speaker Mr. John Antony

  • How Culture eats Strategy for breakfast in most strategic implementations;
  • What are the key Strategic Implementation issues and challenges;
  • How to introduce a comprehensive overview of change management to drive strategy

VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)


DATE: Tuesday,  15 Apr 2014


TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.




To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations too


Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

Tips for Managers:
There’s No Such Thing as a Culture Turnaround

Jon R. Katzenbach


Company culture changes very slowly, so efforts to do an about-face are inevitably a waste of time and energy: Organizations either declare victory prematurely or, in frustration, abandon the attempt.

You’re better off thinking of your cultural situation as an underpinning you’ll have to work with over time. It will evolve, but more slowly than other elements of your enterprise, such as a new operating model. You can shape your culture, however—and you can make better use of it by altering or adopting a adopting a few key behaviors.

That’s what one client of ours, a large industrial manufacturer, did to accelerate its recovery from severe financial distress during the recession. This example from the past is particularly instructive because we now have the distance to see how a few behavioral changes not only improved performance right away but also are having a longer-term impact on the company’s culture.

At the height of its troubles, this manufacturer was hamstrung by a risk-averse, slow-moving culture. At the time, the interim CEO assumed he wouldn’t be there long enough to “turn around” the culture—and in a sense, he was right. But we worked with his senior team to better understand the existing culture and to foster three key behaviors that would improve performance.

First, the management team started making significant, visible decisions—for instance, canceling a major product line expansion—in a matter of weeks instead of years. Next, several senior executives conducted small-group discussions with informal leaders in the organization about which cultural traits needed attention—something they’d rarely done in the past for fear of either wasting time or meddling outside their formal jurisdictions. They also put more in-house people in direct contact with customers more of the time.
Those adjustments have helped the company cultivate three traits—speed, risk-taking, and accountability to customers—deemed essential to its success.

All leaders can learn from this example: Target a few behaviors that will immediately energize the elements

 of your culture that are critical to moving your business forward. It is surprising how rapidly you can revitalize existing cultural traits if you concentrate on the right behaviors. Though it takes a bit of time and patience, viral spreading among informal leaders is a lot faster than programmatic spreading through redesign. Here’s what you do:

  1. Find a theme. Summarize, at a very high level, what you’re trying to accomplish. This is important because the critical behaviors manifest themselves differently, and you need coherence across groups and levels in the organization. In our example, the unifying theme for behavioral change was customer-centricity and responsiveness.

  2. Don’t claim victory too soon. Because culture is always slowly evolving to fit strategic and operating priorities, it’s not an endpoint. Rather, what you’re ultimately aiming for is better business performance. And existing cultural forces can fuel the behaviors you’re trying to adopt in your organization. For example, legacy pride, engineering excellence, and design elegance helped energize and sustain newly identified key behaviors in the case of the industrial manufacturer. In other words, your organization’s culture is a fundamental source of energy that will help secure an emotional commitment from your employees, which is essential to making behavioral changes take root.

  3. Enlist the help of informal leaders. Seek out the “influencers” in your organization, and ask them how they persuade, inspire, and mobilize their colleagues. They can tell you what works—and what doesn’t. They’ve learned through experience how to work with, not against, the underlying culture to garner support and make things happen. Business unit heads and HR can help you identify these informal leaders, but they aren’t very hard to spot. You’re looking for people who get things done in the organization. Learn from them; they know a lot more about the existing culture than you do, and more than any survey could uncover. Note that they aren’t necessarily your high potentials. They are authentic informal leaders who connect with people emotionally as well as rationally. In our example, what began as a smaller band of informal leaders became several groups of pride builders at the company. By treating these influencers as cultural advisers and tapping them for guidance, senior managers found ways to get more people across the company in direct contact with customers. As a result, customer satisfaction and sales numbers have improved.

  4. Remember that cultural forces don’t go away. You can rekindle elements of a previous culture that produce feelings of pride, commitment, and collaboration, but you can’t kill an existing culture. And you shouldn’t try to. Just about every culture contains some elements you don’t want to lose. Instead, work with your influencers to think about which behaviors you need, to articulate them, and to persuade people to embrace them.

  5. Start now. Leaders often say they have other things to do first—then they’ll get to culture. Or they want to wait for new leadership, or a new governance structure. Do not wait. The time to understand your cultural situation is now. It will influence everything else you’re doing..

Jon R. Katzenbach is a founder and co-leader of the Katzenbach Center at Booz & Company, which focuses on cultural and leadership joint research within client situations. He has authored several articles and books, including The Wisdom of Teams and Leading Outside the Lines.


To find out how you can transform your company's culture into a winning one, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001


About Directions Management Consulting


Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia. LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.


In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia.


Using the Belbin Team Role Profiling, Directions Management Consulting helps develop high performance teams and leadership at every level. is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.


Raybattle is the strategic partner of Directions Management Consulting specialising in experiential learning events and management retreats.


Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as Delphi Packard, InterContinental Hotels Group, LELO, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Philips Lighting, Carrier, Ingersoll Rand, Kulzer Dental etc.


Directions Management Consulting will increase its efforts to conduct leadership studies in China and other parts of Asia, so that more companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved in this part of the world.


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