Culture Can Make or Break a Firm’s Success – 3 Steps to Building a Culture that Aligns with Business Development and DEIB Objectives

Whether organizations realize it or not, culture directly impacts their strategic initiatives, including business development strategies and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) programs. There is a misconception that culture can only have a positive impact or doesn’t impact other business strategies and initiatives. But culture significantly affects every component of the firm – for better or worse. A firm can have a rock-solid business development program or an intentional DEIB plan, but if its culture doesn’t align with those plans, they will falter.

Culture is a tricky concept for organizations to wrap their arms around for two key reasons: (1) the amorphous nature of culture and (2) misunderstandings about its importance.

Culture is a difficult concept to define, much less understand. It is important to remember that a firm always has a culture, but there may be a disconnect between what the culture is and what the firm wants it to be. It’s a little like the parable of the fish who is asked, “how’s the water?” and responds with, “what’s water?” Businesses are essentially pools of culture, whether their leaders realize it or not. 

Some organizations might struggle to nurture a positive culture because they don’t acknowledge its importance. Culture can be discounted as “soft stuff” that isn’t as important to the bottom line as billable hours and fees. Raising awareness of the importance of culture is a key first step in building a culture that supports the firm’s strategic plans. 

If a firm isn’t purposeful about cultivating its culture, its existing culture can hurt its bottom line. Culture can derail the success of BD, DEIB, leadership development, and other strategic initiatives.

Once a firm recognizes the importance of cultivating a positive culture, there are three key steps to doing so: 

  1. Intentionality. Organizations should determine their desired outcomes from strategic plans like business development and DEIB. Then, they can consider the culture that would facilitate those desired outcomes and take purposeful, intentional steps to build that culture.

  1. Connection. Humans need relationships, and the quality of those relationships can make or break culture-building. 

  1. Pervasiveness. Consistent and holistic actions are what make a culture.  Organizations should take a big-picture view of culture because “silos” can hinder progress.

Key Takeaways 

Culture is everywhere and impacts everything. Know your desired outcomes and consider ways to make intentionally cultivating culture part of every aspect of the firm – from training programs and compensation to business development and promotions.

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