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Culture for skeptics

The catalyst for strategy in the financial services industry

This paper explores what culture is, why it matters to financial services organisations and the five broad ‘channels’ through which employees pick up cultural messages. It also shares seven guiding principles to help organizations make culture a catalyst for strategy.

What is culture? It’s easy to sound vague when talking about culture. Leaders may talk about building a culture of innovation, endeavour or customer-centricity but you can never define this as crisply as you can a cost-income ratio. And you can’t measure it with precision like market share. But it is real and straightforward and – understood in the right way – entirely possible to manage culture for the betterment of your firm. When it is aligned to your strategy, it acts as a catalyst that speeds up execution; when it goes bad, it will thwart your best endeavours. To see what Culture is, though, you need to understand its function – the role it serves in helping individuals in a firm work out what to do and how to do it.

Not all of the channels through which employees pick up cultural messages are obvious and not all of them necessarily transmit consistent or positive messages. They are:

  • Role models
  • Explicit enculturation
  • Incentives
  • Revealed preferences
  • Symbols and fables

This report also shares an approach to help organizations make culture a catalyst for strategy, based on seven guiding principles.

Culture for skeptics: The catalyst for strategy in the financial services industry
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