CreativityEngaging Culture

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

That’s the sign in the Ford Motor Company war room.  I’ve written before about leadership expert Sam Chand’s theory that  “Culture is more important than vision” and it’s true.  It doesn’t really matter how great your vision is, or how brilliant your strategy.  If you don’t create a culture where vision and strategy can be realized, you’ll fail.  It’s a simple choice really.

Your organizational culture can either propel you to greatness or sink your ship.  Too many organizations rely on the two columns of vision and strategy.  They put all their money on the vision of the leader, or their corporate strategy.  But too often, at the same time they create an internal environment of distrust, bitterness, and betrayal.  Don’t make that mistake.  Build an internal culture of creativity, innovation, and talent, and just step back and watch the breakthroughs happen.

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  1. I’ve read the wave of books on vision, I ‘m reading all kinds of stuff on strategy.  I’m still missing the boat?


    I spoke about this with my father (Glenn Rowe) who teaches strategy.  He said:


    There is more to it than culture. The strategy pursued must be one that is appropriate given the environment in which your organization operates. Then you must have the resources and capabilities to pursue that strategy. In addition, you must have the leadership, organizational structure, rewards, controls and culture that will allow the strategy to be well executed. Finally you need all important, influential stakeholders supporting you in pursuit of the strategy. So culture is very important but it is one of many very important elements in top organizational performance. Inherent in the above is that all of these elements need to be aligned with each other. The example I sometimes use is if your strategy is all about cost leadership and everyone in your organization is about creativity and innovation – and you have a culture of innovation – you probably will not be successful. If you are in all out pursuit of a product differentiation strategy and your culture and your people are all about cost reduction will not work either. There has to be alignment. Finally, once all elements are aligned, the strategy must be understood by a critical mass of people within the organization such that they can voluntarily make day to day decisions that support the strategy not undermine the strategy.


  3. “Know thyself (or maybe thyselves)” is pretty critical when it comes to these issues of strategy and culture.  Trying to overlay strategy onto a culture that doesn’t value strategy or execution is ultimately futile.  Trying to implement change into a culture that is firmly entrenched against change (oftentimes in spite of claims to the contrary) can be maddening.  In my consulting experience I have seen more often than not organizations that talk one culture and behave another.  And while I still hold that culture trumps vision (and strategy), perhaps the more important issue is that behavior ultimately trumps talk, and the only true measures of culture are behavioral?

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