Why Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast: Unleashing the Power of Organisational Culture

Let’s say you want to increase the representation of senior females in your organisation perhaps because your funders are asking for it so you set that as your strategy. You get the management consultants in, powerpoint slides are produced, action plans are hatched, townhalls meetings are convened and the new strategy is plastered all over the place. Alright, everyone gets the message already. BUT, if you are running a misogynistic organisation where women are belittled and have to deal with performance and maternal biases left right and centre, you can push your strategy all you want you will find it hard to get women who want to stay in your organisation long enough to rise to the top.

In the world of business, countless strategies have been devised, tweaked, and implemented to achieve success. However, the smart thing to do is to think of culture as a strategic advantage. As Peter Drucker, a well-known management consultant, educator, and author once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I couldn’t agree more! Culture should be a top priority for leaders and if they want long term success,  they should be putting their energies into cultivating a strong culture. By investing in culture, companies can gain a competitive advantage and thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape.

Organisational Culture  

That said, what constitutes organisational culture? It encompasses the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that shape how people within a company interact and make decisions. More often than not, these attitudes are modelled by senior leaders and it cascades down to staff. It serves as a powerful force that influences employee engagement, productivity, and innovation. According to a recent global survey of 3,200 workers in more than 40 countries by PwC, strong cultures drive better business outcomes. In fact, the majority (69%) of senior leaders credit much of their success during the pandemic to culture.

Culture’s Influence on Strategy Execution

No matter how brilliant a strategy may be, it is only as effective as its execution. This is where culture plays a pivotal role. Research conducted by Kotter and Heskett found that companies with strong, adaptive cultures outperformed their competitors by a significant margin. These organisations experienced higher employee satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and greater customer loyalty.

Moreover, “The Culture Factor” , a study by Harvard Business Review found that culture-driven companies achieved a 516% increase in revenue and 755% increase in net income over a 10-year period. These figures highlight the undeniable link between a robust culture and long-term financial success. So for the leaders out there, are you beginning to look at your culture as your new bottom line?

The Power of Employee Engagement 

Employee engagement is a critical aspect of organisational culture. Engaged employees are more committed, motivated, and willing to go the extra mile. A Gallup study showed that highly engaged teams experience 21% greater profitability and exhibit lower absenteeism and turnover rates.

To foster engagement, leaders must prioritise culture by creating an inclusive and empowering environment. Companies like Google and Southwest Airlines are renowned for their strong cultures that promote innovation and employee autonomy. These organisations have consistently achieved impressive results, fueled by a workforce that is fully aligned with the company’s vision and values.

Building a Strong Culture 

Building a strong culture requires intentional effort and ongoing commitment. Leaders must articulate a clear vision, define core values, and actively reinforce them through communication, recognition, and organisational practices. Transparency, trust, and open communication channels are vital to cultivating a healthy culture that empowers employees and drives performance.

While strategy is undoubtedly crucial, it’s the organisational culture that provides the fertile ground for success. Leaders must recognize the power of culture in shaping strategy execution, employee engagement, and overall business outcomes. By investing in culture, companies can gain a competitive advantage and thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape.

If you’re a working mother and you’re also paying a higher price in your field for having children, grab a chat with me here. If you want to hear more from me, you might be interested in my FREE masterclass – register here to watch anytime.