In 2007, the West Indies, an archipelago of former colonies of Britain, hosted the Cricket World Cup (CWC). With venues in 9 sovereign states, peeks of land in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean plus one, Guyana, on the South American continent, the challenges of logistics loomed large for the easy movement of fans and teams, throughout the region. The organisers of the CWC somehow managed to convince the governments to implement a single-entry system i.e. once you entered any one of the states, you had free movement to the others, with relatively little bureaucracy. They also adopted a single Immigration form throughout the region. I remember travelling on business during that time, and it was a joy to not have long lines and Immigration Officers who wanted know everything but blood type and date of death. Yes, I thought, this system is great and therefore will continue.
How wrong I was. Immediately upon conclusion of the CWC, the single-entry system was disbanded, despite evidence that it worked to ease the stress of people moving throughout the region, and, as far as I know, posed no security hazard to sovereignty and security of the states.
The common form remained as a vestige of an effective and efficient system. However, 9 years later, as I travelled this year to 5 countries in the Caribbean I notice that the common immigration form has been abandoned. Everyone is back to doing their own thing.
The system worked in 2007, so why did it revert to the old? I don’t know, but as a keen observer and questioner, this might be a case of culture eating strategy – new strategy, new structure, but no change in culture. No change in the underlying belief in West Indian oneness, rather than many-ness; no change in the idea of protecting oneself against each other; no change in trusting the other governments; no change in the authoritarianism of the state. And so, travellers suffer, money is wasted on forms. Status quo rules thanks to culture.
Reflecting on this, I invite you look at your organisation and see where your culture has been eating strategy. Ask yourself these 4 questions:
- What instances are there where you changed your strategy, your policies, your processes and they have gone right back to the status quo? These are clear indicators that your culture ate your strategy.
- Dig deeper – what is the underlying culture that enable the current strategy and structures? What values, beliefs and behaviours support the strategy and make it work, for good or bad?
- Now, what culture do you need to support the new strategy?
- Is there a difference between the required culture and your existing one? If so, you have work to do!
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