Culture eats strategy. This well-known truism has been attributed to the management Guru Peter Drucker,* and as Ryan Holiday says in Conspiracy, “It doesn’t matter how great you plan is, it doesn’t matter who your people are, if what binds them all together is weak or toxic”.
Ryan is referencing the culture that ran through Gawker – an online news and gossip blog – before a $140M legal judgment was brought against them by Hulk Hogan financed by Peter Thiel in 2016.
“Culture is how organizations ‘do things’.” – Robbie Katanga
The culture of the organization is more important to a successful strategy than simply strategy itself. Whereas a strategy is a conscious decision – a plan of action to achieve something, culture is often left out, something left more to chance than a plan.
And when there is no plan for a culture, an organizations culture defaults to its default processes and as Robbie Katanga says a “Culture is how organizations ‘do things’.”
In other words, any culture that is left alone and not nurtured or designed will default to the habits and behaviors of the managers and their employees. If managers don’t take responsibility, the culture of “someone else’s responsibility” will grow and permeate across the organization. If today’s work becomes tomorrows, then targets will be missed and goals sacrificed without concern.
Leaders across the organization will also have a disproportionate impact on the culture due to their powerful and influencing roles. Consider what researchers call the Ikea effect where those who have built items themselves value them as much as expert creations. We all feel the same when we feel we have built the team and we are twice as protective.
So if culture eats strategy and culture defaults to everyday actions, the way to drive real change is simply in the everyday.