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Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast - How Do You Make it to Lunch?

Like many quotes, although this one is attributed to Peter Drucker there is no evidence he actually ever said it but it

doesn’t really matter as it is true all the same - the best strategic plans will not work if they are not in line with the organisational culture.


Why? Because strategic plans need to be promoted by the management team and executed by people working for the organisation, and so long as the strategy clashes with the values and drivers of these people the execution will be half-hearted, and so will be the results. No level of persuasion or enforcement can make people care about things they don’t naturally do.


This is the first pitfall of most strategic plans. Common wisdom is for them to be created by brilliant MBA’s, working for a leading consultancy, who interview the organisation’s leadership team about the business and the market, do their own research, and present a plan based on the best data available.

Unfortunately, no one stops to ask what are the values that drive the organisation’s leadership team members and how does this affect what they care about.


This is not some new-age psycho-babble. It doesn’t take a psychologist to realise that when you are asked to do things you are not passionate about the results leave a lot to be desired.


The good news is that there is a simple solution - although managers usually find it easier to deal with data and information they need to resist the rush to research common issues like products, competition, market trends, regulation, etc. A strategic planning process worth its salt will start by listening to the management team - what concerns them, what drives them, what do they aspire to and, most importantly, what kind of culture they would like to see in their organisation.


It is of little surprise that such questions are rarely, if ever, asked in any management meeting but they are essential to ensure the success of any strategy. An important additional effect of this discussion is the increase in levels of energy, enthusiasm, and commitment that are generated just by having it. It is worth the effort just to get this outcome.


There is more than one methodology to have such a discussion in an organisation and I will not claim that one is superior to the other but if you are after a genuinely successful plan and not just trying to please the board, make sure to have one.


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