Culture Eats Strategy

The full quotation is, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and comes from the great Peter Drucker, considered to be the ‘father of contemporary management theory.’ I recently heard a manager, in an attempt to let me know he knew about emotional intelligence use this quotation, however, he said it in such a way that I wondered if he really knew what it meant. After reading a couple articles on this subject, I’ve concluded that while the concept is ‘common sense’ it’s not common practice.

We see it everywhere. Small organizations such as retail stores and large organizations such as healthcare, education, government, and multi-national organizations seem to forget that what develops between the people who provide the service or produce the product is more important than the strategy or the plan to bring the product or service to the end user or the consumer. Certain cultures seem to support employee engagement and others undermine it.

What do we mean by the word ‘culture’? If you look up the definition there are many. Originally, it meant what was ‘grown’ or ‘cultivated’, however, in reference to people it has come to mean the ways in which people have come to act and interact with each other in groups. Where two or more people gather, they create their own culture with their own meanings of actions/behaviours and their own ‘unwritten’ rules. Can culture be changed? The answer is ‘yes’ culture can be influenced and changed.

This is the role of the leader, which is to influence cultural change to support employee engagement. Once again, most leaders get to their position as a result of criteria other than their expertise in the area of organizational effectiveness and so they don’t know what they don’t know. They overlook culture because they don’t understand employee engagement and organizational effectiveness suffers as a result. They can’t attract good people. They can’t engage their people. And they can’t retain top talent who go elsewhere looking to be ‘engaged.’

What do you think? Do you work for a leader who has created a culture of engagement? Tell us about it.

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