Corporate culture is an incredibly powerful factor in a company’s long-term success. No matter how good your strategy is, when it comes down to it, people always make the difference.
A strategy that is at odds with a company’s culture is doomed. Culture trumps strategy every time – culture eats strategy for breakfast
Strategy is rational and logical
Strategy, at its core, is rational and logical, clear and simple. It should be easy to comprehend and to talk about. Without a clear strategy, a company is lost.
Culture is human
Culture, on the other hand, means different things to different people. It is emotional, ever-changing, and complex. Culture is human, vulnerable, and as moody as the people who define it.
It can be intimidating and frustrating, often leaving leaders dodging it, neglecting it, or discounting it. Because so many companies are run by people whose expertise is heavily skewed to the rational, financial, and legal side of the equation, culture is often subordinated, misunderstood, or underappreciated.
So what is the relationship between culture and strategy:
- Strategy drives focus and direction while culture is the emotional, organic habitat in which a company’s strategy lives or dies
- Strategy is just the headline on the company’s story – culture needs a clearly understood common language to embrace and tell the story that includes mission, vision, values, and clear expectations
- Strategy is about intent and ingenuity and culture determines and measures desire, engagement, and execution
- Strategy lays down the rules for playing the game, and culture fuels the spirit for how the game will be played
- Strategy is imperative for differentiation, but a vibrant culture delivers the strategic advantage
- Culture is built or eroded every day. How you climb the hill and whether it’s painful, fun, positive, or negative defines the journey
- When culture embraces strategy, execution is scalable, repeatable, and sustainable
- Culture is a clear competitive advantage
- Culture must be monitored to understand the health and engagement of your organization
Culture is eating what it kills
Too often a company’s strategy, imposed from above, is at odds with the ingrained practices and attitudes of its culture. Executives may underestimate how much a strategy’s effectiveness depends on cultural alignment. Culture trumps strategy every time.
This post was published in LeaderMag – Aug 2013
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