Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – and Breakfast, and Dinner……

by | Apr 29, 2014

Culture eats strategy

You know the old saying "Culture eats strategy for lunch". I think of it more and more with the clients we see - while having a great strategy is a necessary condition, a necessary and sufficient condition rests on the organisation's culture. Make no mistake. A poor culture can eradicate and whiten the very best strategy - indeed, it may never see the light of day.

It is with interest I read the article from Strategy& (was Booz&Co). The article is entitled "The Critical Few: Components of a Truly Effective Culture". It is a somewhat long article, but elaborates on the view that a few simple components will make up an effective culture. These elements are:

Identify the Critical Behaviours: Pinpointing a few critical behaviours is priority number one. Once the behaviours that embody the cultural priorities that a company seeks are identified, clarified, and supported widely, you can focus on harnessing them to strengthen and modify the existing culture.

Honor the Existing Culture: Your organisation may have many admirable cultural traits, but you need to focus on those three or four traits that are distinctively clear, wisely profound, emotionally powerful, and widely recognised.

Focus on the Critical Informal Leaders: You’ve picked the behaviours you need to change or energise. You understand which facets of your existing culture can help spread the new behaviors you are seeking. Now, focus your efforts on the specific groups of people within the organisation that can help bring this transformation about and make it last.

So here are our critical few:

  • Empower your team. Let them get on with it. Establish shared goals, set the vision, define the metrics, and let the team manage themselves and how they get to the endpoint. Certainly have checkpoints along the way, but these are checkpoints and milestones, not points for pulling apart their work.
  • Don't micro-manage. If you have to micro-manage, you either have the wrong team, you have not set shared goals and metrics, or you are destroying a culture of innovation!
  • Remove "Yes, but....." from your vocabulary. When you hear yourself starting to say this, transform the "Yes but" into "Yes and..."
  • Always celebrate successes - no matter how small and celebrate failures as well.
  • Enable diversity. You might think you have a diverse team but look around...are they really diverse enough or are they just people you like?
  • Don't push people into solutions. Push them into the strategy to come up with the solution.
  • Give people time.

That's it. Go for it!

Jeffrey Tobias

About Jeffrey Tobias

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well-known startups.

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Managing Director, The Strategy Group

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.

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