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News & Press: Guest blog

Guest blogpost: Culture > Strategy

21 May 2018  

By Mainak Roy Education Enthusiast
Co-Founder and CEO at Simple Education Foundation | Acumen Fellow | Teach For India Fellow | Obsessed with growth

[Culture is greater than Strategy | Part 1 of 2]

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Your organisational culture will be the only element defining your organisation in a couple of years, you may want to choose your side before it is too late.

I spent the first week of May 2018 attending the Global Schools Forum Annual Partners Meeting in Zurich. If I had to summarise my key learning from the conference then it would definitely be the need to build a strong culture within the organisation, the need to have a strong story that defines and binds the entire team, the need to ensure that everyone in the team has the ability and motivation to choose their role in the story and has a structured growth trajectory to excel in their roles.

But, building culture in the organisation is not as easy as it sounds, it is hard work and needs consistent efforts. Over the last decade the start-up boom has led to focused conversations on culture, if we take a close look at the organisations that exist today we can broadly categorise the epicentre of their cultural influences into two schools of culture.

Culture of convenience

A culture of convenience is one where team members/organisations choose to do things that are convenient at that very moment. Taking an Uber to a client meeting when the Metro is easily accessible, making recruitment decisions in haste, not investing in professional development, etc. While a lot of these decisions make sense and are seemingly correct (mostly in the short term), they always have a deep negative impact in the long run.

Deep diving into the organisations or teams that subscribe to this school of thought will show you the misalignment between the purpose of the organisation and the purpose of the team building the organisation. Hence, all cultural conversations should always be grounded in the purpose of the organisation.

As a country we are more attracted towards a culture of convenience too. The way we stand up for right, when we stand up for right are more often than not dictated by convenience.

Culture of sustainability

A culture of sustainability is where team members/organisations choose to do things that are geared to a better and more sustainable future. Keeping a post vacant till they find the perfect match, working closely with team members who are struggling to find their feet, investing in processes that will ensure stronger operations, etc. While these might seem unnecessary in the beginning they will definitely yield strong results in the long run.

The interesting thing here is that both these school of thoughts have strong positives, either in the short or the long term, and that often makes it difficult for us to choose sustainability over convenience.

Remember that once you are able to scrimmage through the evidences of culture in your organisation and decided that you will pursue a culture of sustainability, you have just started scratching the surface. The path is long and arduous.

Culture at Simple Education Foundation

At Simple Education Foundation (SEF) we have consistently tried to ensure that we build a culture of sustainability. We work inside public schools and we are always thinking of ways to ensure sustainability of practices when we walk out of these schools. It is important for us to ensure that the public education system builds internal capacity to run best in class schools in every neighbourhood and we will never be able to do it if everything good about the schools we work in is hinged on our performance. We are far from achieving it but we have anchored ourselves in this idea and I know we will reach there pretty soon.

As non-profits it is very important for us to ensure that we adopt a culture of sustainability in everything we do. This will not only ensure that we build things for the long run but it will establish the true ethos of our work.

Next Article: How to build a Sustainable Organisational Culture (by end of May, 2018)
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