After Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast Who is Paying for Lunch?

Is-culture-more-important-than-strategyDo a google search on strategy and culture, you are going to find many versions of the maxim that states the superiority of organizational culture over business strategy. Several anecdotes, that suffer from recency bias, are used as supporting evidence to this almost axiomatic statement. If you are in business off-sites and retreats you get to hear from hired organizational health consultants lecturing you at length on this amorphous and poorly defined aspect called culture.

Among the cacophony of phonies, gurus, culture consultants and Medium posts on culture and breakfast, Denise Lee Yohn gives us all a sane perspective on the role of a business and what drives value.

 A vital, vibrant culture unifies, aligns, focuses, motivates, and propels.  But it is not enough to produce a profitable business.  Culture must be linked to, and pursued with the same rigor and vigor as, the customer experience.

It doesn’t make sense for a company to develop purpose or values to inspire and engage employees if those aren’t inextricably linked with how the company inspires and engages its customers.

Denise brings a nice balance of business purpose, strategy and how you execute on it with the right set of values and employee engagement. On the other hand when we see

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

we are told to lose sight of the customer, what customer needs we want to serve, how we create value, how we will do this better than any other alternative available to them and how we convince a group of people (employees) to join us in delivering this value and how we are going to do this at a profit.

If culture eats strategy for breakfast, who is going to pay for lunch?

One thought on “After Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast Who is Paying for Lunch?

  1. It’s a flawed argument.

    Culture needs to be aligned and supportive of strategy.

    For example, culture is more important for companies that pursue a strategy based on customer intimacy. Four Season’s hotels, Rackspace, etc.

    For companies like Comcast their strategy does not require a particularly strong culture or even good service, as the company is often votes worst company in America. And yet they produce great profits consistently grow shareholder value. It’s an example where strategy is working fine, culture is not even a consideration.

    On the other hand, we have the example of Yahoo, where Merissa Mayer established a great culture, but the strategy is flawed. Today, the enterprise value of the company is negative. Shareholders would be better off closing the company and cashing their Alibaba shares. An example where culture is great but the strategy is wrong.

    Those who promote culture is king probably don’t understand strategy.


Comments are closed.