Nurturing Success: The Dynamic Dance Between Strategy and Culture

In the wild world of business, catchphrases run rampant, sparking debates and raising eyebrows. One such catchphrase that tends to get a reaction out of me is “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Now, hold on a second! Let’s dig deeper into why this phrase makes me cringe and explore the fascinating relationship between strategy and culture.

Reason 1: Don’t Blame Culture, Blame Leadership

Picture this: a brand-new strategy is unleashed upon an organization, promising exciting changes. But if the existing culture is resistant to change, it’s the leaders’ job to rally the troops and bring them along for the ride. It’s not fair to point fingers at culture when leaders fail to communicate effectively. Leaders need to step up, bridge the communication gaps, and create a culture of openness that embraces change and drives strategic success.

I once worked with a group of sales leaders who were hesitant to shift their focus from being top sales reps to coaching their teams. They made excuses, blaming the existing culture for their reluctance. What they failed to realize was that it was their responsibility to shape a new culture by stepping up as leaders and embracing the change themselves.

Reason 2: Strategy Calls the Shots

Sure, culture has its influence, but let’s not forget that strategy shapes culture just as much. A well-crafted business strategy provides a roadmap that aligns goals, clarifies expectations, and promotes transparency. When a strategy is clearly defined and effectively communicated, it eliminates excuses for undesirable behavior and wasteful resource allocation. It empowers employees to become change advocates, fostering a high-performance culture. By leveraging strategy as a catalyst for cultural transformation, organizations can foster innovation, collaboration, and adaptability.

I once worked with an executive team that redefined their target industries and identified specific clients to focus on. They made a conscious decision not to pursue the largest players in the industry because serving them required resources they were unwilling to provide. The VP of sales acknowledged that while the team might not be thrilled with this decision, it provided them with clarity. Now, they could channel all their resources into one aligned direction.

Reason 3: Drucker Didn’t Say That!

Hold up, folks! It’s time to set the record straight. The phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast” has been misattributed to the legendary management guru Peter Drucker. If you don’t believe me, just hop on over to the Peter Drucker Forum website, where you’ll find a collection of Drucker misquotations, including this gem. What Drucker actually said was this: “Culture—no matter how defined—is singularly persistent.” Drucker emphasized the enduring nature of culture and its impact on behaviors, values, and decision-making. It’s a powerful force that persists even through strategic changes and structural shifts.

The Dance Between Strategy and Culture

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Strategy and culture aren’t foes engaged in a fierce battle. They’re more like dance partners, intricately linked and influencing each other in a continuous feedback loop. A well-crafted strategy takes the existing culture into account, leveraging its strengths while addressing areas for improvement. On the flip side, a healthy culture aligns with the strategic direction, fostering open communication, collaboration, and recognition of desired behaviors. A misaligned or toxic culture can trip up even the most brilliant strategy. That’s why leaders must nurture a culture that supports and reinforces the desired outcomes.

The relationship between strategy and culture is a captivating and multifaceted one. Sure, the phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast” might catch your attention, but it oversimplifies the truth. Strategy and culture are partners in crime, driving organizational success when they’re in sync. So, leaders, it’s your job to effectively communicate and implement strategy while cultivating a culture that supports your goals. By understanding this dynamic dance between strategy and culture, organizations can navigate change, inspire innovation, and create a high-performance environment that propels them to success.

Now, let’s grab our dancing shoes and make sure strategy and culture are doing the tango, not engaging in a fight!

Main Image by Huu Thong