How to make culture your nonprofit advantage

Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch is about the fragile balance between two forces on your organization—rational and emotional. Both are necessary to create a culture at every level of your organization.

Culture Eats authors Coffman and Sorensen argue that our strategies and tactics can either take a bite out of our culture or ignite the passion within it. The authors claim that as leaders, managers and employees, we must actively own the cultures to which we belong to draw out the best climate that is conducive to our business imperatives.

The reality about culture

Every organization has a culture, whether you cultivate it or not. The question is will you nurture your culture so it becomes your competitive advantage or choose to ignore it and hope for the best? Many nonprofits hope their noble missions will have a halo effect on their cultures.

The reality is nonprofits may need culture management more than most due to workplace challenges such as fewer resources for programming budgets, perks and pay. Coffman and Sorensen argue that culture is the X Factor when it comes to pushing your competitive advantage, delivering on your brand and ensuring strategies are fulfilled. The advantage nonprofits do have is plenty of purpose, which the authors explain is a critical ingredient for building a strong culture.

Culture questions asked and answered

We asked Curt Coffman and Kathie Sorensen about their unique idea of a Cultural P&L and about how leaders can have an impact on MicroCulture:

CausePlanet: Curt and Kathie, thank you for writing this book that focuses on culture as a means to success and competitive advantage. How did you come up with the idea of Cultural P&L (Profit and Loss)? What exactly does it involve?

Coffman and Sorensen: Every effective business leader knows the value of the P&L. Without it, you would be “guessing” about the outcomes that are critical to your business. The idea of a Cultural P&L is to provide the same kind of attentiveness for what has historically been hard to assess–the culture itself. Rather than seeing culture or even employee engagement as a once-a-year “outcome,” we see culture as evolving throughout the year and requiring a relentless interest to manage it effectively.

The three levels of culture, MacroCulture, MicroCulture and Bridge, are all a part of the P&L and help us understand the power of attraction within the culture and the degree of productive energy and connections around our line-of-sight. While the P&L will take the shape of the organization, the vigilance practiced helps ensure that the culture aligns with the brand and creates competitive advantage.

CausePlanet: You discuss at great length how the individual, not the leadership, in the MicroCulture is responsible for the culture. How can leaders then steer the culture in the right direction and motivate individuals to create a positive culture?

Coffman and Sorensen: Leaders can’t mandate culture, but they can encourage it through their active interest in their people’s perspectives, talents, ideas and needs. What leaders pay attention to creates focus in the larger organization. Asking about collaboration, partnership and new ideas means that leaders can bring about more of those strengths.

Great leaders ask about the elements of culture they want to see more of. The leader controls three things in making culture a competitive advantage: 1) brand, 2) future and 3) strategy. But, leaders can take a scalpel to culture if their role isn’t well defined.

MicroCulture is the most local team that shares similar goals and focus. The onus of culture is really activated or squashed at this level. The role of the micro level is to activate and sustain productive energy in one another. This is where execution, quality and true productivity lie.

If you’re tired of looking at financials, give the Cultural P&L a try. Coffman and Sorensen assure you that a consistent focus on culture will soon become your best insurance for a solid future.

See also:

Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch: The Secret of Extraordinary Results Igniting the Passion Within

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia: Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing the Way We Run Things

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