“Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”

Graham Andrewartha | Director| MCA-group

This famous quote from Peter Drucker emphasises the significance of organisational culture in building and maintaining business success. All elements of practical business planning, the mission, marketing, compliance, and strategic planning, are shaped by, or limited by, the underlying culture.

In his first consultation with MCA group, Maron, the CEO of an engineering firm, explained their strategic planning day had dragged on for almost two days. The Executives had successfully laid out the strategic plan of attack; all the details and logistics were outlined with precision. However, he believed there was still something missing in their discussion. During our discussion it became clear the firm’s culture was stuck on, “If it works, why change it?” With this hidden foundation it was clear to Maron that all their great plans would not be successful.

Only by building the right culture can an organisation set and implement the best strategies for success. It’s like an elephant eating a peanut; culture is the elephant and strategy is the peanut. No matter how big or small the strategy may be, it can easily be consumed by the much larger culture.

Culture is the what everyone sees, but no one talks about. It is felt to be less immediate in contrast to the practical important business planning and strategic priorities . However culture is crucial because it’s the underlying driver of everything else we do. Without a strong culture, even brilliant strategies and leaders will have difficulty achieving business success.

Defining Culture: Core values, beliefs

As Peter Drucker also said, “Culture is the way we do things around here.” Culture is how we do things, what we do, and more often what we don’t do.

It’s sometimes obvious and often very subtle. Meetings are obvious; a universal organisational habit. How we do them is culture. Five meetings a week for 4 hours in length, or occasional pop ups. Agenda and minutes or random memory. A subtle but an indelible cultural imprint is ignoring poor behaviour.

All the behaviors, practices, attitudes and rituals in an organisation forms the web of its culture:

  • What we stand for (the way we do things)
  • What our people think of themselves
  • How we behave around each other
  • How we interact with each other
  • What is important to us
  • What assumptions are shared

Benefits of Organisational CultureĀ 

The culture of an organisation is like the energy of a battery: regularly charging it up makes all the difference between success and failure.

  • Employee engagement. A positive culture changes the way people behave: what they do, how they react and how they think. The more positive the culture, the better the results achieved. Culture is a powerful tool for building relationships and a valuable source of competitive advantage.
  • Morale. Motivation and engagement are all improved. Employees feel valued, have more trust in the company, and feel more loyal to it. They also feel more confident in their jobs. Customers will be happier because of the positive attitude and helpfulness of employees.
  • Productivity. A positive culture enables alignment of goals and makes employees more productive. A positive culture helps employees be creative, take initiative and be more efficient.
  • Employee loyalty. Which is important for developing specialised skills and innovation. This helps improve customer services.
  • Increased profitability. A positive culture reduces costs because of less conflict, waste of time and energy, and improved employee productivity.

How to change and maintain organisational culture

Successful companies have a strong culture. They build and maintain it by engaging in the following:

  1. Communicating the desired culture. The CEO and senior management team need to communicate their vision of what is expected and encouraged in the organisation. They need to clarify the behaviours and ways of working and reward employees for it. In our experience this is best done by assessing current culture and the preferred culture in contrast. Involving the Board, the executive team and senior managers in this process, builds broad involvement. Further it assists in looking at the different perceptions of what the desired culture might look like.
  2. Resolving conflicts. The culture will not be able to survive if there is no conflict management. Resolving issues and conflicts when they occur is important to keep the positive culture going.
  3. Ensuring the organisation has strong leaders who set the standards and communicate the values.
  4. Examining all aspects of organisational life through the cultural lens. This includes selection of new staff, onboarding, the performance process, meetings, and all communications.
  5. Monitor, reassess and modify continuously. Maybe appoint a CCO (a Chief Cultural Officer).

We assist organisations to do this very successfully.

To find out if this is for you, please contact us by phone on 1300 856 480 or by email people@mca-group.com.au.