Company Culture Trumps Strategy Every Time

One of my favorite quotes by the legendary Peter Drucker is, “culture trumps strategy every time.” A lot of leaders use this quote, but all too often it stops at that. I’ve found that very few actually live by it.

Working with teams is a lot like working with marriages and family dynamics. Now I’m no marriage counselor but my conversations with clients may at times bring up visions of leather couches in dark rooms with quirky counselors asking you how this or that makes you feel. But even when it comes to business, how people feel has a direct impact on the bottom line. Whether we want to acknowledge that is a different story.

That brings me back to the simple fact that the majority of leaders don’t truly understand the delicate and intimate dance between human emotions, company culture and profitability. Performance and innovation are driven by trust, engagement, conflict resolution and ability to work with and through other people. Company culture dictates each and every one of these.

How do you pronounce DaimlerChrysler?… ‘Daimler’—the ‘Chrysler’ is silent.

One well-known example of a global company with a great strategy that lacked the right culture is Daimler-Chrysler. This merger was not just the merging of two different companies, but two different cultures. Each company had opposing views and practices when it came to operations, formality and overall philosophy. When the colder Daimler culture became more dominant, the employee engagement dropped off the map. The result? Major losses and layoffs. Shortly thereafter Daimler had to sell Chrysler.

When it comes to mergers and partnerships the choice on the direction of the culture often becomes an ego-driven p*ssing contest. That’s understandable. The key to success in these situations and with company culture overall essentially lies in education and humility. Any executive at any company that accepts this can leverage their company culture and use it as a game changer for success.

Here’ How

  1. Do an assessment of your current company culture.

In order to do this you must have a 3rd party organization conduct this. This is imperative! When it’s internal it hits too close to home and objectivity is at risk. This step also involves more than a company culture or company climate survey. See the differences on those two here. A survey is not enough data to work with, let alone enough objective (key word) data. This assessment should consist of data gathering in multiple forms (survey, in-person, etc.) at all levels in the organization. Internal data and workforce analytics should also be integrated for a complete picture.

  1. Education and training.

After you know where you company stands culture-wise, relevant training in the areas of leadership are crucial. Once again, I do not recommend having an internal department create and deploy these trainings for the same reasons as above. It’s vital to have objective professionals in this area work one-on-one and with teams to educate and train on the necessary knowledge and next steps. Depending on the current company assessment, this will (and should) be different for every organization. There is not a “one size fits all” when it comes to company culture.

  1. On-going assessment and focus.

The key cultural influencers must then be integrated and emphasized in all areas of the organization. On-going maintenance is crucial to maintaining and growing a healthy culture.

Culture and strategy can then work together to drive success at all levels. Culture is essentially what people believe. Belief in the strategy is vital or the strategy will fail. In addition, if there is no solid strategy or the strategy is already hanging on for dear life, a healthy company culture can save it and turn it around.

No matter what, a winning culture wins. In a perfect world, every company would have a stellar culture. Not to sound like Miss America, but my goal is to help you all create that… and world peace. 🙂

Comment below and share your thoughts and experiences with culture. I’d love to know!