Culture > Strategy


"Culture > strategy. Culture eats strategy for breakfast." We've all heard this before. Agree or disagree? Why?

Culture Change
Culture Development
Vic Clesceri
1 month ago

8 answers


I agree with this cliche. Most failures are a failure of execution, not a failure of strategy.
I'm making the assumption that culture is strongly correlated to ability to execute.

Omer Aziz, PENG, CHRL
1 month ago
completely agree. I have seen toxic culture ruin the best ideas. Likewise, I have seen teams where people were willing to go the extra mile for each other make up for lack of firm plans - Ellen 1 month ago

This was said by one of America's early business leadership "gurus," Peter Drucker. It is true in the sense that it's easy to craft an elegant strategy that ends up setting on the shelf while never being implemented. It's much more difficult - and a prerequisite to actually executing any strategy - to develop the healthy cultural unity and focus comprised of shared commitment (mission/vision/values) and readiness/competence necessary to get it done well!  My own quote related to this is: "A basic strategy that's well-executed outperforms a sophisticated strategy that's poorly-executed every time"!

Don Barefoot
1 month ago

Culture and strategy? One can succeed without the other and neither will survive a mismatch.

Daniel L. Light, MBA
1 month ago

Culture IS greater than Strategy. The culture of a company relies on there being a clear set of values, strong leadership and a sense of transparency and honesty between the company, its employees, and it customers. These factors will be the ones that differentiate your company in difficult times and increased competition. Don's quote in an earlier response is spot on "A basic strategy that's well-executed outperforms a sophisticated strategy that's poorly-executed every time."

Scott Cook
1 month ago
Well stated. - Vic 18 days ago

I can define 'strategy' but 'culture' is more intangible. What do you all mean by this?

David Cottrell
1 month ago

I view culture as values. Defining your values will help in your strategy planning. Does the strategy match your values/culture? It's a great measuring tool.

Lynnette McMahon
1 month ago

Vic Clesceri , a classic quote and today as valid as in the past. Culture is based on behaviour on all levels. It includes an adequate top-from-the-top, but also an efficient system to communicate and foster the culture inside the corporation.

An Ethics & Compliance-department can actively foster this with including the founder’s vision in its training & workshops and then explain how complying with the internal guidelines & external laws ensures to keep this vision (strategy) alive.

Vision (including Values) + Strategy + Compliance = Sustainability

Nevertheless it is more a circle, as it is not only valid that culture eats strategy, but also to implement an adequate culture, organizations require an efficient strategy. This you may also align this with a quote by the Austrian-born management consultant and philosopher Peter Ferdinand Drucker: “Managers do things right; leaders do the right thing.

In fact he never said this that way, but defined in 1967: “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” It was nearly 20 years later when Warren G. Bennis y Burt Nanus took this phrase and simplified it to the version, we know today. A key message is that leadership not requires management level, so could be done also from the middle or the bottom. This is important for our modern flexible company structures, where the project groups change from situation to situation.

But nevertheless is this really enough, should the sentence not get extended, as we need mangers, which are leaders, or in other words “do the right thing right”?

Even if you have the best intentions, if the execution of the project is not adequate, results can be fostering the problem, instead of solving it. No need to say that bad ideas, perfectly executed are even worse.
For this mangers require relevant business ethics and sustainability trainings, but on the other hand leaders have to be identified and receive adequate management skills.

Patrick Henz
1 month ago
Patrick Henz Great response. I especially liked “do the right things right.” I tell my teams “do the right things first (be effective) then do those things well (be efficient). - Vic 18 days ago
Thanks Vic Clesceri , effective and efficient have to work hand in hand. - Patrick 18 days ago

Culture is greater than strategy and with a great culture the strategy will be executed.  However, I have seen organizations hold the culture on a pedestal and never consider strategy.  Start with a great culture but don't forget the strategy.   

Becca Boyd, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
6 days ago

Have some input?