“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, the quote questionably attributed Peter Drucker, highlights that in reality, if we focus simply on the nuts and bolts of strategy rather than the people side of business, we are heading for a big fail. With the important issues of engagement, well being and motivation levels impacting on organisational success, culture is the critical component that brings strategy to life.
The reality is strategy and culture shouldn’t be seen in separate camps. If we work on co-creating the strategy collaboratively, we can have a huge effect on culture. This becomes possible as we tap into a vital way to strengthen people’s engagement and sense of purpose: increased voice and recognition of the value they bring.
If we insist on strategy only being developed and shaped by leaders, or the “strategic development team” with no input from the people doing the work, we end up with words on a page that no one pays any attention to. Strategy created by a few people in a closed room won’t create the momentum we need for success.
Bringing strategy and culture together is about cultivating conversations that connect people to purpose and people to people.
1. Be Sure to Talk about Purpose
Do you talk the big why? Do your people see the underlying purpose for the initiatives you are bringing in? Simon Sinek, leadership guru and TedTalks’ “Start With Why” speaker says, “People don’t buy what you do or how you do it, they buy why you do it”. Most people are not in their job for the money – they want to be deeply connected to the human centered purpose of the work. This focus on deep purpose aligns value driven behaviour − the heart of culture − to the strategic intent of the business.
2. Be about Improving, Not Proving − Give People a Safe Place to Have a Voice
Bringing the best of ourselves to the table in the spirit of improvement means that we start to align as collaborators in the development of successful strategic direction. This conversation gives us time to air divergent opinions and perspectives and find the outliers and the alignment. Innovation is often found in the outliers. Don’t dismiss them − embrace them.
3. Get Rid of the Elephants
Have the courage to step into spaces that might raise issues that are challenging. In fact, doing this well, with respect for people’s opinions and differences will build trust. If there is a culture of fear, then discussion on the important issues won’t happen. Taking out the personal and putting in the professional will build a culture of transparency and trust. Stop having elephants in the room and start having conversations that address them and find strategies to get around them.
Strategy without culture is like a dry biscuit − it looks like it might sustain you for a while, but after a little nibble no one wants to eat it.
Culture without strategy is like a bubble bath − it feels good and is fun in the short term, but add a little soap and the bubbles disappear quickly.
Galvanise your teams by having deep conversations that connect them to each other and their purpose along with the strategy they need to get them there.
Now that’s a satisfying breakfast!