Why is culture always the poor cousin of strategic planning?

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.


Ah yes, Peter Drucker’s immortal phrase is so important because culture can ruin a brilliant strategy. People get in the way.

The organisations that successfully pivoted in the last six months had the best people, not the best strategy.


The Aged Care Royal Commission Interim Report: Neglect cited “culture“ 30 times as a persistent problem.


The norm is to annually immerse yourselves knee-deep in a strategic planning “event”.


It’s usually a wild ride because a strategy is only a 50-50 bet. Flip of a coin. Your likely success rate for any initiative is circa 50% (according to Candido & Santos, 2015).


Leadership (aka people) create both the culture and the conditions for successful strategy execution.


As such, strategy + capabilities + culture are aligned:


1. Where are we going? –> Strategy


2. How are we going to get there? –> Culture & Capabilities


Trouble is, strategy (1) sits comfortably with Boards and Management teams but culture (2) is seen as both nebulous and intangible. It’s just too hard to get your arms around it or deal with it, let alone change. You know it’s out there though.


“This is how we’ve always done it!” is how a culture shows up.


In the same way setting a strategic direction follows a formal process, both culture and capability can be regularly measured and monitored to feedback into strategic execution progress plans.


At your next breakfast meeting, make sure strategy, culture and capability all have an equal seat at the table. It’s a much more enjoyable meal when you're a team.

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