No, Culture Does Not Eat Strategy For Breakfast

Peter Drucker was the “father” of management consulting. He was an insightful thinker and prolific writer, and his impact on business cannot be overstated. I have great respect for him.
Yet I strongly disagree with something he once said that has been much repeated in recent years: culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Now don’t get me wrong. As those of you who follow my blog know, it’s not that I think culture is unimportant. Just the opposite. Culture is critical … but it’s not separate from strategy. Determining the type of culture you should have is very much a strategic issue.
Strategy is more than just a mechanistic exercise that looks at products, markets, financials and things of that sort. A strategy blind to culture is a strategy almost certain to fail. Your strategic process should examine your current culture and identify your desired culture – one that is innovative, service-oriented, sales-driven, or whatever you deem necessary.
But there is also a more general sense of culture. Specifically, a culture that is engaged, that connects with hearts, not just heads, that is fueled by want-to-do, not was-told-to-do, is a culture that delivers discretionary effort and exceptional performance. Yet even in this more general sense, choosing to cultivate such a culture is itself a strategic issue.
Strategy without culture is half-baked. Culture without strategy is just an ingredient. But strategy that includes culture is a complete meal.
Bon appétit.
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