E-Commerce: Strategy & Culture Drive Business Transformation

How we engage our people, how we lead, and how we represent ourselves in the market is, in essence, our culture
E-Commerce: Strategy & Culture Drive Business Transformation
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Director, Executive Coach, Strategy & Leadership Consultant
4 min read
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Many leaders acknowledge that business transformation is needed to effect meaningful change and drive their organisation forward. Implementing a strategy to execute this effectively is the first thing that is required to ensure it runs smoothly, with KPIs introduced and measured throughout. 

However, whilst strategy is pivotal in the process, it is essential that this is not rolled out at the expense of the most important aspects of your business – the people, and therefore, the culture. Intersection of people and work is where the magic happens in every organisation. Sustainable success that has longevity will only be achieved if this intersection is enhanced, whether that’s to be more effective, efficient or for delivering a different customer or strategic need. 

When I consider strategy, I define it as more than a plan – a plan to win. Companies need to ascertain whether there is a market out there, and whether they have the capability to successfully conquer them – and, if not, can they build it. Once they’ve established if this game is worth winning, the strategy will be about putting a plan in place to do so. 

Yet, how we engage our people, how we lead, and how we represent ourselves in the market is, in essence, our culture. Just simply following a strategy without stepping back and reflecting on the nuance of each action, and how this will affect both your internal team, and any other stakeholder, will only result in failure. 

Here’s an example to illustrate what this means in practice. If your new strategy is to set up a business  for entering new markets and you need to be more agile than you currently are, you’ll need to implement transformation of your processes and systems. But if your culture and the way your people operate are not agile, this can’t happen. Conversely, if you demand that your team become more agile, but are unable to explain the strategic reason for “why” they need to be, you’re destined to fail. I’ve seen numerous organisations say they want to be more “agile” in order to reduce costs, but the “why” needs to be bigger than this, otherwise you’ll lose the team support immediately. 

Change management is a common business discipline. Very often the transformation teams responsible, come up with an engaging and aesthetically appealing plan, along with a brand transformation name, catchphrase and streamlined Gantt charts. Strategy is, quite correctly, put on top, but the only nod to culture will be a side note on a change management workstream. You need so much more than this. Transformation is not just process change management, it’s about introducing a behavioural step change in the business that will result in real, tangible change. A very deliberate culture change plan also must be developed. It’s should never be an afterthought. 

Furthermore, in the same way that a good strategy tells us what to say no to, (as well as what we actually do), a deliberate culture change may mean that people change out too, and that’s okay. Many leaders see changing out teams as a sign of failure but people should move in and out of organisations, and if someone isn’t a good fit for your culture, don’t be afraid to address this as part of your transformation plan. 

When implementing business transformation, tough decisions will be made, and ultimately, growth or profit will be the main objective. But focusing solely on the hard, quantifiable KPIs, without implementing change hand in hand with a solid, cultural focus will be ineffectual. When we consider both strategy and culture in harmony, and balance with one another, they’ll enable each other’s success, and that’s when the magic happens.

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