Culture Before Strategy

How we get things done, as much as what we actually do, drives performance. Issues of trust, change management, conflict resolution and ownership are all fundamental to how any team performs, and often the manner in which we strive to achieve something can be as significant as the achievement itself…

Consider the two ideas of strategy and culture. Strategy can be viewed as the setting of a direction towards a defined and required outcome. At its simplest, it is merely planning for a particular result so that your company or brand can flourish.

Culture is harder to define. Perhaps we can see as the set of habits that allows a group of people to cooperate by assumption rather than by negotiation. Based on that definition, culture is not what we say, or make policy for,  but rather what we do without asking.

A healthy culture allows us to produce something much bigger than the sum of the individuals involved. Look at it this way, if we only see that 2+5+10 = 17, we haven’t really explored the benefit of leverage or scale – teamwork. What we really should be looking for is 2 x 5 x 10 = 100. A profoundly different result, and yet the difference is not of strategy, but of culture.

Culture is the domain that encourages – or obstructs – the velocity of strategy and progress. By addressing where an organization is limiting its velocity, and by establishing a dynamic and supportive culture, you can accelerate the engine that fuels innovation and achievement.

Hence culture, rather than strategy, is the ultimate enabler.

What are you doing in your company to establish or influence culture, and do you invest as much time in that as you do strategy?


About Paul Henry

Paul Henry: founder and principal strategist at winehero consulting ltd; 2010 WCA International Wine Communicator of the Year; 2007 Len Evans Tutorial Brokenwood Scholar.
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One Response to Culture Before Strategy

  1. Ric says:

    Culture will influence both the creation and the execution of the strategy, and the “quality” of both is independent of the other. A “good” strategy may meet a “good” culture and still fail, because they don’t fit together; a lesser strategy may be more successful. And it’s easier to change the strategy … 🙂

    There are times as well where the culture is so inimical to change, that survival necessitates changing the culture so the strategy CAN work – this is not an enviable situation to be in.

    Given the difference in ease of change, it could be argued that getting the culture right is much more important than “this year’s” strategy – a “good” (however you determine that) culture is built up and persists over time, and is a greater determinant of a company’s reaction to crisis/opportunity.

    Strategy is derived from culture – a strong culture is likely to create a strategy that matches its world view and approach to situations.

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