Why culture eats strategy for breakfast

There’s a reason for the common adage ‘culture eat strategy for breakfast’. While organisations may spend inordinate amounts of time and money putting together elaborate strategies, if the organisational culture is not aligned to support the strategy, its strategic outcomes will never be realised.

Leadership, strategy and culture are, in essence, inextricably linked and no organisation will perform optimally, if any of these elements are missing.

In its simplest form culture can be regarded as ‘the way things are done around here’. And in essence it comes down to the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that are reinforced and rewarded in the work place.

It therefore goes without saying that should these beliefs, attitudes and behaviours not work towards supporting the organisation’s strategy and overall vision, the resulting disconnect has a significant impact on productivity and performance.

Every organisation therefore requires an appropriately crafted culture that works towards providing it with a competitive edge.

And it is here that leadership plays an instrumental role in not only modelling the required values and behaviours, but identifying and implementing incentives, policies, processes and systems that work towards promoting these behaviours.

VW’s recent fall from grace serves as a prime example of organisational leadership, strategy and culture not being aligned. While the organisational strategy has always appeared to be that of product and service excellence, its leadership and culture were clearly missing the mark completely.

VW is also evidence of the fact that this three-way alignment needs to be continuously reviewed much like individuals undergo periodic medical examinations to check the state of their health. Here organisations can be regarded as living organisms and should some part of the organisation be ailing, remedial action needs to be taken to rectify it and bring it back to a thriving state of health.

In this scenario it is leadership that becomes the surgeon that restores or removes the injured limb. So while culture may eat strategy for breakfast, organisational leaders are always guests of honour at the breakfast table.