Peter Drucker says “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and I agree with him that culture is very important to an organization, but I don’t think this statement goes far enough.
It certainly warns us about the perils of culture, but I think we also need to highlight the positive aspects too.
Yes, your culture will eat your strategy for breakfast, but only if it’s the wrong culture.
If you have a conservative culture and your strategy is for your company to be more innovative, then if you don’t change your culture then it’s going to probably clash with the strategy and it will fail.
However, if your culture is aligned with your strategy, e.g. you created have an innovative culture and your strategy is to increase innovation, then your culture is really going to help.
I would go so far as you say that the right culture will help your strategy eat your goals for breakfast.
With the right culture, you set your company on the success, as it will work together with your strategy to deliver the results you are looking for.
Too many companies only focus on strategy and leave the culture alone.
Because Culture is hard to change. It involves people, habits, and behaviors, and it’s much easier to just put a plan in place and hope for the best than it is to change your culture.
This is why so many strategic initiatives fail because they get eaten for breakfast by your culture.
The good news is that Leadership defines culture, so you do have the opportunity to influence it, and over time change it.
Here’s a simple three-step approach that I have used to help change cultures that have seen us then go on to achieve some amazing results.
- Say It
- Live It
- Reinforce It
Now let’s be clear just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy, but with consistent and persistent work you can change your culture.
The first step is to define the culture you are looking for. This is critical because if your teams don’t know the culture you are looking to implement then it will be hard for them to follow it. I have just done some work with a company and we have defined their culture as
"Passionate, collaborative, innovative, inclusive, and customer-focused."
When you let your teams know what the culture you ware looking for it, it allows them to participate to become involved and help implement it.
The next step is to live it. This is where leadership really does define culture, when you live it you become role models for that culture, you set the tone and the example for others to follow. And because you have defined it your teams can clearly see that you are living it and are committed to it.
The last step is to reinforce it. When you see others adopting the culture then you need to give them a shout out, recognize it because what gets recognized gets repeated, and then you are creating more role models. You also need to introduce rituals that reinforce it, this could be as simple as having awards for the most passionate, collaborative, innovative, inclusive, and customer-focused staff members, if your values are like the company I mentioned. This then shows what you value and will encourage people to adopt and live those values.
It’s not an easy journey, but if you persist it will bring the changes, and then you will have position your culture to help your strategy to eat your goals for breakfast.
One question I often get asked is how long does it take to change a culture, and the answer depends on the size of the organization, the depth of the existing culture and the level of change to the new culture. But I have seen companies start to benefit within 3 months and I have seen an entire organization change in just 6 weeks.
If you want to know more about how to align your companies culture with your strategy then just click this link and let’s set up some time to have a quick call to see how I can help.