“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

From as far back perhaps as our first fascinating high school biology class we couldn’t help pondering “the chicken or the egg”. We later learned that this dilemma and conclusion extended well beyond biology.Then came “nature or nurture”, psychology 101, and the plot thickened. There was something to sink our ideologically hungry, pre-adult teeth into at last. If you were anything like me, it took almost a decade to formulate a well balanced opinion giving them both a fair shake.The strategic business world seems to have been grappling with its own existential dilemma, “strategy or culture”. My still favorite quote from Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” was popularized in 2006 by Mark Fields the president of Ford. Until that point there was a whole lot of focus on strategy and quite a few upturned noses at culture change work, although being practiced in the mainstream by us large firm human capital consultants for some time. However, as one of those super, smart management gurus, Drucker’s remark may have just settled it… Culture does indeed eat strategy for breakfast, especially if it (the culture) doesn’t support, or isn’t aligned with that which the strategy is trying to achieve.  At last there’s one dilemma where an answer seems to have weighed in and conquered its opponent. However brilliant a strategy or business direction may be, it will never be successfully implemented if the culture does not support it and enable it to play out. The organization’s people have to ‘buy-in’ to the strategy, they have to be involved and genuinely believe that it makes sense to them, at this place, in this culture and at this time. They need to see how it all fits together and how easily the proposed strategy might flow out of a culture such as they have, for the strategy implementation to fly.Thanks to Dr. Drucker, we are able today to give organizational culture its rightful place on the boardroom agenda and on the lips of the most cynical, scientific managers and leaders.”Central to his philosophy is the view that people are an organization’s most valuable resource, and that a manager’s job is to prepare and free people to perform” quoted from the website of Peter F. Drucker & Matsatoshi Ito Graduate School of Business.

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