Annual meetings of top executives are an opportune time to consider culture up against strategies

By Jim Hart, Senn Delaney President and CEO

Companies today demand more from their annual corporate meetings of top executives. Those critical few days are highly strategic and focused discussions around meeting the challenges ahead, planning for new growth and preparing for more major change and strategic shifts.

It's an opportune time to consider the company's cultural impact on its changing strategies. Some of the world's largest companies use a 2- to 3-hour culture diagnostic session as part of their annual meeting of the top 50 to 300 leaders. It is an effective way to mobilize and focus leaders on shifting the culture to the high-performance, Thriving Leadership™ state needed to effectively implement new strategies and organizational change.

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Leaders who have participated in Senn Delaney's highly interactive conference breakout sessions come away with a stronger focus and purpose, a sense of increased collaboration, communication and trust, and a commitment to creation of a viable action plan.

Culture diagnostic and alignment sessions provide answers to some important questions, including:

  • Where is your company heading?
  • What is your current cultural environment?
  • What will get in your way of executing key strategies if not understood or addressed?
  • How can individual leaders best operate as a team of leaders to achieve the vision?

Diagnostics are normally done before the annual meeting to capture a clear picture of the current leadership culture of beliefs and behaviors and how they impact execution of your strategy. These results are examined during the meeting breakout session to clarify cultural strengths and challenges. Leaders gain a greater understanding of what they can do to positively shift the culture to accomplish the strategies with more accountability, trust, respect and vitality.

A summary of insights from session participants is shared with the senior leadership afterward along with recommendations to implement meeting feedback.

How CVS/Caremark used the cultural diagnostic session to drive change

When retail pharmacy chain CVS merged with pharmacy benefits provider Caremark, the senior management of the combined company engaged us to facilitate a culture diagnostic session with their top 300 leaders. The new company's top 75 leaders had already been brought together to share the vision, organizational model, strategies and values. The senior management wanted to introduce these approaches and plans to the top 300 leaders to gain alignment around the vision, mission, strategies and culture needed to ensure success of the merger.

The cultural diagnostic session helped kick-start the reshaping and blending the best of both cultures around a common vision, set of values and guiding behaviors. Session participants were better able to see the big picture, become more of a unified team, make decisions for the greater good of the company and become more accountable for the team and the organization.

According to CVS/Caremark SVP of Human Resources Michael Ferdinandi: “The process helped us gain alignment around the vision, mission, strategies and newly aligned multi-divisional ‘one-company' culture needed to ensure success of the merger.”

As a result of the initial culture diagnostic session, CVS/Caremark decided to take its culture-shaping efforts more deeply into the organization to create and sustain a high-performance culture of accountability, collaboration, trust, innovation and agility, customer focus and integrity.

If you would like to learn more about cultural diagnostic sessions, please contact us in the U.S. at (562) 426-5400 or in London at +44 (0)20 7647 6060.

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