Culture eats strategy for lunch

May 23, 2011
Patrick Hehir

Peter Drucker is credited with saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast ” and in recent times many have adapted this phrase and replaced breakfast with lunch. Such lessons still have a long long way to go before people accept that premise in a meaningful way. The fact is that if you have the right culture, you will develop the best strategy, will be able to  execute it in a committed fashion and adapt as needed. This basic understanding is TOTALLY missed by the majority of large company executives.

So much has been written about how critical the culture of a company is that one might expect more people would get it. Many tout that culture is the only truly long term sustainable competitive advantage that any company can have. Countless studies have been done that validates that premise. So many in fact, that I think it unnecessary to even list any of them.

So why are executives so reticent to committing to creating a long lasting, sustainable and winning culture ?

  • Is it ability or motivation ?
  • Are they driven by their own greed and short term selfish interest ?
  • Are they unsure about HOW to create the conditions for the enablement of a sustainable culture ?
  • Are they simply unable or unwilling to take the personal risk ? 
  • Are the incentives or expectations set by the people they are accountable to (Board of Directors) not encouraging the right kind of thinking and leadership. (This is often more difficult when an outside CEO or exec team member comes on board as they are largely unknown entities and people are unsure of how long it takes to drive large scale change and they become impatient and people FOLD.)

So what is the solution ? I have many thoughts, but this particular blog is being written to provoke some dialogue and begin a conversation.

I would love to hear your views.


2 Comments. Leave new

Henry D. Wolfe
June 1, 2011 5:42 pm

This is a really interesting topic and per your remarks, one that does not get near the attention that it deserves. As a case in point, Jack Welch spent the first 10 years of his long tenure as GE Chairman with changing and developing the culture as his top priority. Yet, when you read all of the literature about Welch’s success, rarely, if ever, do people understand what his leadership was really all about.

I completely agree that the core significance of culture is missed by the majority of large company executives. But, I also believe that it is missed by the majority of CEO’s and executives regardless of the size of the company.

In regard to the question posed above, I could offer a list of possible reasons as to why most executives are reticent to create high performance cultures. But, ultimately, I believe it boils down to a simple and subjective reason: They simply do not get it. Period. I have always believed that the ability to genuinely understand what customer service is all about is an innate quality…..I think that the understanding of the importance and power of corporate culture falls into the same category, i.e. it is either innate or the individual does not have the capacity to fully or even partially grasp it.

Patrick Hehir
June 1, 2011 7:58 pm

I love it Henry and of course I TOTALLY agree.

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