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This mini-case study is part of our Culture-in-Action Series.

Every major and sustaining society and religion, across time, has been built upon a shared belief system. For example, the Apostle’s Creed begins with the declaration of “I believe…”.

Belief systems of organizations provide for the bedrock of the culture of an organization. Belief systems also underpin the strategy of organizations. The strategy of an organization should be defined as “the application of the assets and potential of the organization to defined goals that when achieved positions the organization to out-perform relevant competitors in pursuit of the same goals”. The word “strategy” derives from the Greek “stratagem” which translates to “office of the general”; or stated otherwise, the prerogative of the leader.

In the absence of a shared belief system, leaders should expect under-performance of any strategy. Why? Subordinate leaders are unlikely to execute on a game plan that they don’t believe will effectively lead to successful attainment of a worthy goal.

Keystone Culture Group Case Vignette:

The senior leader of a community health system establishes the laudable strategic goal of “top decile performance of orthopedic trauma care within the organization’s primary service region”. The majority of orthopedic surgeons in the community are members of independent practices. A relative few physicians are either interested in or qualified as trauma surgeons. Those who possess the required qualifications and clinical interests do not believe the goal is achievable given all the conditions, internal dynamics that apply, as well as, what is perceived by physicians as underdeveloped support staff and insufficient investments in required facilities and clinical technologies.

If the CEO gets out ahead of the independent physicians’ shared belief system with the trauma strategy, they are not likely to cooperate and may openly oppose the strategy.

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