Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast


I love these evergreen sayings on social media, so quickly searched LinkedIn, and 97 pages of results appeared… And only a few were sceptical.

In my opinion, cultural change should come from and be supported by a clear strategy. The execution of the change must be consistent (strategy-driven), and without the implementation of (strategic) work systems, no change will last.

Moreover, the strategy is not solely about cost and profit. If the strategy prioritizes safety, quality and customer satisfaction over machine performance, the culture will become customer-focused (both internally and externally). However, if the KPIs revolve around performance and cost, the culture will reflect that, resulting in a demoralized workforce at all levels (with the the perception that “we are not important, our health and safety are at the bottom of the queue”), and indifference towards customer needs (“Who cares, I just need to deliver xx volume, it will be good enough”).

Take a deep dive and analyze it – I love analysis.

So, the first assumption is that there is a strategy in place at the company, but the culture is poor. There are two obvious options:

A) the strategy would support a great culture, but it is not clear, communicated, or followed through effectively. In this case, the leadership team needs to face the fact that, on the one hand, they did a great job creating the strategy, but on the other hand, they overlooked a tiny little detail: implementation and follow-up. Fixing it is relatively easier, but it may require significant efforts and perseverance from all levels of the leadership team to see results.

or B) the strategy is actually reinforcing the current poor culture, in which case, a review and deployment of a new strategy are necessary, along with consistent follow-through (which is far from easy, despite being easy to write down).

Now, what if we reverse the thought process? Imagine a company with an amazing culture but lacking a clear and implemented strategy. How long will the culture endure? How long can high standards (in terms of mindset, work ethic, quality, etc.) be maintained without knowing the goals or having a direction to pursue?

Perhaps the proper version of the saying is: “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner (and Vision, Mission, and Core Values for Snacks).” Without proper “food” every single day, culture won’t thrive.

Do you have a question or need help?

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