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The Culture Conundrum

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” By far, this is the most succinct quote to explain the culture conundrum. Widely attributed to management guru Peter Drucker, this quote was made famous by Mark Fields in 2006. As president of the American division of Ford Motor Company, Fields went on to say, “You can have the best plan in the world, and if the culture isn’t going to let it happen, it will die on the vine,” and he’s absolutely right.

Companies advertise their amazing culture all the time. Read any LinkedIn page for an organization, and almost guaranteed, the positive culture of their business will be highlighted. Here’s the thing: companies don’t create culture. Executives don’t create culture. Employees create culture. Employees respond to their environment, and the culture of a company begins with how their employees feel about working there. Are they respected? Do their opinions count? Do they have opportunities to grow? How willing is the organization to promote internally and give team members a chance to learn new skills? Do the employees like each other? Do they like their Supervisor? Do they even talk to their Supervisor regularly? The answers to these questions define what the “company culture” is. Mission and vision statements or a list of values on a website mean nothing if workers – especially the ones on the front line – are unhappy.

A Leader’s responsibility is to provide a working environment in which the team feels they have the confidence, ability, and security to do their jobs well. Leaders coach, give direction, provide feedback, and hold people accountable. More importantly, we listen. A strong Leader listens and responds to what their people are saying and what they’re not saying. A strong Leader fosters a safe space, one in which an employee can offer ideas or make a mistake without retribution. The C-suite can’t force a culture simply by telling their staff what the culture is or should be. Provide your team with a consistent climate of trust, authority, and inclusion, and your team will provide the culture. Otherwise . . . culture eats strategy for breakfast.

pac man of culture eats strategy


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