It’s one of those fantastic soundbites that sounds like Schwarzeneggar would use it if he was a strategist:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
[deep stare, bicep twitch]
For the most it’s true. A strong business culture will motivate, instruct and sustain teams and individuals where a strategy can often gather dust.
The people and businesses we look up to and are motivated, focussed crack units with not only exceptional people but exceptional timing and luck.
As advisers and part-time contributors to other organisations we work with a different set of circumstances mostly. Distributed teams, conflicting priorities, tight budgets, ‘interesting’ organisational design and graphs with hockey-stick growth.
And tbh I wouldn’t have it another way.
I feel from my own experience, talking to other strategists and following the practise around the world Australians are attracted to culture over planning because of our heritage.
North Americans and the Japanese often love structure. A plan is the way to go. Hierarchy is familiar and easy to work with. Here we’re used to all having our say. An egalitarian culture means the best ideas in the room will hold sway and group decisions pull toward the norms. “This is what we do here.”
If your boss is Branson, Winfrey or Bezos that’s gonna float. The culture such people foster is carpet-deep. For the other 99% of businesses some structure, focus and planning can help.
As challenging as implementing a plan over time can be, changing culture in a meaningful way is next to impossible.
Here are some recent examples of where strategy has been handy.
- Reversing a culture of male-dominated workforces has benefitted everyone.
- Building policies could save lives in hot weather, as the Greeks know.
- The world’s oldest company reinvents itself.
No matter what size your organisation is a great culture is a huge benefit. But if it’s toxic, intermittent or not connected to your goals it may just be so much expired yoghurt.
To launch that moon-shot you’re gonna need a plan.