Culture vs. Strategy


We have no doubt all heard the Peter Drucker quote claiming that culture eats strategy for breakfast; but what does it even mean?  When do we need to think about it and how important is it really to be occupying our valuable head space with?

Well let’s start by defining the two.

In a nutshell, strategy is the tangible plan that drives focus and direction in a business.

Culture on the other hand is emotive; it’s how a business feels to those working within it and those interacting with it.

Culture provides the habitat within which a strategy can live or die; and this is perhaps where the quote came from.  For we can have the best laid out, thought through strategic plan in the world; but if our business is operating with a toxic culture of everyone out for themselves, then there is little chance of that strategy becoming a reality.

You see a business does not create anything.  A business does not create success; high performance and profitability…people do.  So, if we want a successful, high performing, profitable business, we need to think about creating the environment where people with those skills desire to be.

To this end, if we are not thinking about culture as much if not more than strategy, then I will go out on a limb and say we are kissing goodbye to the dreams we have of a high performing business.

“An overgrown garden makes daily life hard.  An overlooked culture makes business life hard.”

Let’s explore a typical scenario…

It’s the start of a new financial year so a great time to strategize about the upcoming 12 months and what you want to achieve.  So, you sit down with your leadership team and map out the strategic direction your business will take in the year ahead.  You create key projects to focus on; set sales targets; perhaps discuss new markets or opportunities to expand into; review processes and systems and you come away feeling energized and enthusiastic for what lies ahead.

Before long though, this enthusiasm starts to wane; the energy slows and the positive vibes you were feeling when you walked out of the strategic planning session are fast becoming forgotten; pushed aside by the “busyness” of getting on with business.

You see there is typically such a degree of haste to “get on with business,” to focus on the surface level stuff that seems important…sales, money, market share…that we can forget about what lies beneath all that; at the core of our business.  The culture.  How we do things round here; and that is as true for solopreneurs and start ups as it is for multinational corporations and everyone else in between.

A culture is organic.  Think of it like a garden.  If we just get on with life and ignore our garden because we are too busy, does that mean it sits there stagnant waiting for us to craft it into something beautiful and productive?

No – of course not!

It grows regardless.

The grass grows long and wild; paths get overgrown; weeds start to appear and steal the nutrients that should be being used by the pretty or productive plants.  Before long it’s a battle to even walk through it and even simple things like getting to the washing line become a real hardship.  An overgrown garden makes daily life hard.

An overlooked culture makes business life hard.

So, when do we need to think about it?

Well the answer to that is we should always be thinking about it

If we are in business, even just for ourselves with no one else involved, we need to be creating the environment for those plants to grow and thrive right from day one.  We need to nurture and water and feed and weed and mow continuously because otherwise, that BBQ area we strategized and started to build will not only never get finished, but it will never get used because it won’t be a pleasant experience to be out there in it!!

So, if you’re in business or leading a team, what is the key learning from taking the time to read my musings here today?

I encourage you to and spend time in your “garden.”

Stop what you’re doing and go for a walk…

Is it looking how you want it to?

Is it producing like you want it to?

Could it do with a bit of a refresh?

Take the time to nurture your environment, even with a busy workload and you may just be surprised by the fruits of your labors.

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