Strong cultures can be a blessing or a curse.  Workplace culture can either be constructive: both healthy for people and high performance-oriented; or they can  be destructive to business performance and toxic for people.  This article outlines some of the upsides and downsides of a strong culture.

I keep hearing people say they’re proud of their “strong culture”. However, strong cultures can either support or destroy business performance. A strong culture just means behaviours are consistent.

It does not mean that the culture is effective.

It does not mean it is helpful for your strategy.

It does not mean that this is something to aim for in itself.

Strong cultures can be constructive or destructive. Let me describe 2 different examples, then you can decide for yourself.

First let’s look at McKinsey. I can easily describe their culture as I used to work for the firm in the Atlanta office. Although many years ago, I still have strong links and the culture has not changed. It is easy to describe because the culture is so consistent. Every office in the world recruits similar people. They are all highly motivated and achievement-oriented. People who don’t fit this profile simply aren’t hired, or don’t last long. The firm is successful, and the culture helps deliver their success. A constructive culture aligned with their client-focused strategy. Top marks.

Now let’s look at a large bureacratic organization I know, where the behaviours of their staff are also highly consistent. Their strong culture is extremely risk averse with low levels of innovation. People get ahead by pointing out the flaws in everyone else’s work, and making themselves look good at the expense of others. (“Oppositional” style if you are familiar with Human Synergistics definitions). This drives a ruthless, competitive environment. Sadly this is a root cause of their business under-performance and bad press.

Which business would you rather work in? Both have strong cultures.

So this leads me to 3 tips below.

3 tips on strong culture

  1. Don’t aim for a strong culture unless your culture is highly constructive (there are some other criteria which I’ll write about in the future)

  2. Be aware strong culture can hinder execution (the Turbocharge Hub has a unique framework on how to navigate different types culture when you’re implementing strategy/change – talk to me if you’d like to know more)
  3. Note that it takes longer to change behaviours in a strong culture, as behaviors are more embedded

Research on strategy execution, culture and transformation

Participate in research and get confidential insight into your own capabilities including culturecomplete the diagnostic in 5 minutes. You’ll receive the full research insights when available. Please forward this to your work colleagues who may also want to participate in the transformation capabilities research.


Quote of the week

Culture is as important as strategy for business success.” Bain study published in HBR back in 2008 – 91% of 1200 global executives agreed with this.


Discussion on habits of transformation leaders

On Tuesday 23 April 2024 8-9am AEDT Sydney (Monday, April 22nd in the afternoon if you’re in the US), join us to discuss some of the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Transformation Leaders, including navigating successfully through culture. Register here at no cost if you haven’t attended a Turbocharge session before.

Keep turbocharging with human-centred strategy 😊🌱📈

PSS Not sure how to get your strategy unstuck, projects powering, and transformation turbocharged? I can help you.

  1. 🌱 For more ideas, playbooks, and to learn from others with similar challenges, join our Turbocharge community at the price of a coffee a day. Money back in 14 days if you’re not satisfied.
  2. 🌱🌱 Email me to book your 1on1 mentoring session to fast track your strategy execution.

If you’re interested in




* Don’t miss out. Subscribe to my personal weekly email to your inbox here.

About Lisa Carlin

As a strategy execution specialist and scaleup mentor, Lisa works with ambitious digital leaders to turbocharge their transformation and business planning. Lisa’s clients have an independent sounding board and expert advice so they have absolute confidence they WILL ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS. Lisa is Co-Founder and Director of FutureBuilders Group of organisational development specialists, and volunteers as Chair of the University of Cape Town Australia Trust. Her early career was with Accenture (South Africa) and McKinsey (USA).

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Related Articles