Corporate Culture and Why It Can Derail Strategy

Management guru Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

Here’s what he meant and here’s why it’s important.

To grow, businesses need strategy. They need to figure out what to do about market share, competition, change, and customer and client needs. To do this, they spend a lot of time and money.

Then, when it comes time to implement the strategy, things can often go wrong. The best laid plans get derailed.

This is because strategies are too often negotiated by the executive at the “intellectual” level (the planning/thinking process) but rarely at the operational level (those who have to implement the plan).

The problem is that there are many more people at the operational level than at the executive level which means the larger part of the organization wasn’t involved in the discussion and negotiation of strategy.

And this is where business culture comes into it.

Although it is a complicated issue, the simplest definition of a business culture is “the ongoing behaviors we allow from each other.”

This simply means that middle management actually control the operational business culture by what they measure and reinforce on a daily and ongoing basis. In other words, the behaviors they allow, support, foster, and encourage.

That’s why the common oversight of not including middle management in the entire strategy and planning process leads to implementation based on what middle management thinks the strategy is or needs to be.

And, because middle management controls the culture, that’s how the culture can “eat the strategy for breakfast”.

To avoid having the strategy “eaten”, all the KEY personnel charged with implementing the strategy need to be involved with every single stage of the strategy and planning/thinking process.

This will ensure that the critical success factors for implementation – collaboration, alignment, and unified support – are in place.