Does culture really “eat strategy for breakfast”?

You might have seen this quote circulating the internet: “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It’s catchy, but what does it really mean and can we learn anything from it to implement in our own businesses? Can we have a good strategy without a good business culture? Is it possible to have both?


What makes a good culture?

Firstly, let’s start with what makes a good culture. Of course “good” means something different to every organisation and a culture needs to fit with business goals, competitive environment and the team who creates it. A culture is shaped by your organisation’s (and your team’s) values and beliefs which is why it can be so powerful when you get it right. The right company culture can lead to a competitive advantage as your people work harder, smarter and stick around for longer. 

People want different things in a company culture. Gen Y and Gen Z employees are often joked about as valuing a culture of “fun” with bean bags and slides in their office. While older generations may value stability and monetary recognition of their achievements. Everyone is different and no matter what kind of culture you land on, you’ll know if it is working by gauging employee satisfaction, turnover and performance.


You can’t enforce a culture

Creating company values or culture and drilling it into your team isn’t going to work. Thomas Segar wrote on the The Startup blog for Medium recently that if you try to enforce culture in “handbooks, protocols, or manuals, it ceases to be culture. It becomes policy.” Rather than making elements of your culture another rule you need to lead by example. Perhaps the culture you want to create is one that makes customers feel appreciated and communicated with whenever they deal with your company. Rather than creating a policy that enforces communication with customers, show the team how you do it and the results generated. The same can be applied to work hours, flexible work schedules, community or charity work in your spare time – the list goes on!


You have a good culture, how do you use it to “eat strategy for breakfast”?

The short answer is, you might not. Culture is extremely important but it needs to come with an element of strategy or forward thinking and goal setting to make the most of the awesome company environment you’ve created. To use a timely example, the All Blacks are a winning team and we can safely assume that winning is embedded into their culture along with hard work and a multitude of other elements. Imagine if they had this great culture, but no strategy. Our national team would be a bunch of happy, contented players running around with no purpose or direction. Culture enables the strategy to take shape and for goals to be achieved, but you need BOTH the culture AND the strategy component to be successful.


Need help?

Does your business need help navigating your way to a good company culture? Our business coaching sessions are a perfect way to refine your company values and culture alongside your business goals. Together we can look at where an improved company culture could take you and put a strategy in place to help you get there.

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