What the Business Leader Said to the MBA

Posted on Monday 21st January 2013

Organisational culture and competitive advantage through people

In October last year, we announced that the Management Consultancy firm One Point Three Consulting had moved headquarters to Birmingham, with a plan to develop even closer links with Birmingham Business School. One Point Three Consulting have now released a Public Intellectual Report based on a succession of research projects conducted by Birmingham MBA students, under One Point Three’s supervision, over the last four years.  

The report makes very insightful reading as it reflects the thoughts, observations and wisdom of a remarkable peer group: of over 100 senior directors and CEOs who collectively manage more than US$740 billion worth of business and who together lead around three million direct employees worldwide. The profile of businesses targeted ranges from SMEs to large multinationals, with some of the interviews taking place with high profile business leaders such as Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chairman of the Cobra Beer Partnership.

The research is not an academic thesis, nor is it a survey.  It was conducted through structured one-on-one conversations in which the researchers invited participants to “tell me what you think about...” and then listened to and recorded what each had to say, prompting the discussion to explore the interviewees’ unique insights and wealth of experience.  The report focuses on organisational culture.  It distils, summarises and informs on the invaluable insights the participating business leaders passed on to the MBAs about gaining competitive advantage through people. 

The participants stress the importance of organisational culture and explain what it is.  They highlight how getting the culture of your organisation right in practice is one of the most difficult jobs for a Chief Executive.  They specify company culture as a critical factor for success on six key business dimensions: 

  1. improving customers focus, service and the customer experience
  2. lifting performance
  3. workforce engagement
  4. keeping people safe
  5. getting people to collaborate and work together better
  6. innovation

It is clear, though, from one of the principal themes to emerge from the research: just because organisational culture is both important to success and difficult to get right does not mean that the solution a company adopts has to be complicated, resource demanding or time consuming.  The report confirms a growing contemporary demand for change management at speed.  To get people’s behaviours and an organisation’s culture to adapt fast, for example to match the pace at which the business environment changes, demands a rethink of much in the way organisational culture is currently addressed.  The report challenges the conventional notion that “culture change takes ages”.

Download the report; "What the Business Leader Said to the MBA".