‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’, claimed a recent article while another proclaimed that more simply that culture matters more than strategy. And yes, there are many organizations, and leaders that separate culture and strategy as though one can work effectively without the other over the long term. Just as there are too many guru-consultants who don’t appear to know how to make them work together.
This is a mistake. Too many think that having a set of nauseatingly cookie-cutter, me-too, amorphous, homogeneous cultural values that they dream up and impose on the organization means that they have culture. A winning culture. A customer-centric culture. Or more shallow, self-defeating terms that neglect to understand either the nature of culture or the value of strategy. (see Building a winning culture : Bain & Company ., Forging a winning culture - PwC)
Strategy is about shaping the future. It is how we move from today to tomorrow. It is how we figure out how to travel from A to B. Brilliant strategy is about the best way of moving from means to ends. It is everything that is needed and nothing else.
Culture is about the personality and behaviors of a social group. It is the billion different ways that predict what a group of people are likely to do next. It is the manner, the flavor, the traditions, the norms, the attitudes that distinguish one group from another. This is culture. And it is both means and ends.
Culture can shape the kind of strategy that emerges, but it is not strategy. Strategy can shape the kind of culture that develops, but it is not culture. And the difference between the two means that they both matter – equally – to the survival and potential success of the group over the short, medium and long term.
A nice, kind, customer-loving, employee-hugging culture can follow an arse-about-face, ignorance-personified, wrong-in-a-thousand-ways, doomed-before-it-even-starts strategy. The strategy may start right but end wrong. The strategy may be smart except for the actions of other people, in other organizations, that make it old news, old-fashioned, out-of-date, no longer fit for purpose.
Great cultures may still collapse. Great civilizations with great cultures have disappeared. Great companies with great cultures have become bankrupt, been superseded, surpassed by supposedly lesser cultures with better strategy.
Evolution, as I argue in Adaptability, does not care what we think. It doesn’t care about the greatness of our culture as a fact, it simply, as a force, cares whether what is done is a successful fit to our situation. Learning culture can help. Adaptable culture can help. But in the end, it’s our strategy that will harness the potential of our resources, what we have and who we are, to shape a better future.
Source: Max McKeown ., Charles Ekweruo
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