Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast. Agree or disagree?

This oft-quoted statement was made by the father of modern management Peter Drucker when he was partnering with Ford, stressing the importance of an alignment between a supporting culture and strategic changes made in the organization.

Culture & Strategy: The Interplay

My favorite definition of culture comes from Booz & Company: culture is self-sustaining patterns of behaving, feeling, thinking, and believing. In essence, culture is how you do business. It is the structure that creates the “how” – how do people collaborate together, how does change happen, how does work get done. This human element in business will always be a strong undercurrent in any organization. The question is how to manage it based on the current or future strategy.

Strategy, on the other hand, is concerned with the “what” of the organizational objectives and attainment. It addresses the direction an organization desires to go to and, more in particular, with what an organization needs to do get there.

Now, you may have the best established strategy, but with a culture that strongly goes against, the strategic changes will be inexorably derailed. The best strategy will only avail when effective and dynamic management of the business culture is vibrantly intact and compatible.

If I had to choose between culture and strategy as my one and only weapon, there is no contest at all. I will choose culture in a heartbeat.

Culture as a Soil – the corporate culture in every organization is to its team what soil is to the plans that rely on it. Building a strategy without cultivating a supporting strategy is like planting a palm tree in a swamp. Culture singlehandedly would oust strategy in any battle together. You need not be a horticulturalist to understand that toxic soil will eventually destroy even the best plants. Culture cannot be manufactured. It has to be genuinely nurtured by everyone from a visionary at the top. Often you’ll find that the best leaders are not the leaders who think differently. Best leaders are those who care and seriously cultivate the culture. If not, it is akin to letting your aquarium water get dirty.

The best culture will have strong underpinning of core values reinforcing the strategy pursued by the organization. Clearly culture exerts extraordinary pressure and influence over strategy, but also the importance of strategy should not be undermined. If fact, without such strategy, culture is left alone like having “tens of thousands barrels filled up with oil without having a car or, to put in another away, akin to having a fantastic sport car and letting it standing still into the parking structure because you don’t have any clued where to go.” Therefore, you need to choose a strategy that fits your culture.