Culture Eats Strategy Eats Culture for Breakfast

Culture Eats Strategy Eats Culture for Breakfast
December 18, 2017

Culture Eats Strategy Eats Culture for Breakfast

Peter Drucker’s famous musings that culture eats strategy for breakfast rings as true today as it did then.

Source: Torben Rick

We can establish strategies to help us become an innovative organisation but if we neglect our culture and the behaviours required to support innovation then it’s all for nought! On these behaviours, Clayton Christensen’s outlined several in his book The Innovator’s DNA, including challenging the status quo, associational thinking, networking and experimentation.

Yet, if your organisation is plagued by complying with ‘the way things have always been done around here’ narrative, avoiding risk and failure at all costs, taking few big bets which each involve a 10-person or more steering committee (of people who are usually ill-suited to be advising on said subject matter), sitting in meetings to prepare for meetings to prepare for meetings, silo’d departmental lines and an IT department that needs everything to go through QA, then your people are quite unlikely, if not almost certainly not going to, demonstrate said behaviours required to move the needle on innovation.

But what if you had a strategy in place to change the culture?

Culture, usually, is simply a manifestation of the processes, systems and values inherent at an organisation.

How Processes Affect Culture

Here’s some typical corporate processes and the resulting attitudes and outcomes.

However, if you re-design these processes and the supporting ecosystem of values and systems, then people’s behaviours - over time - will either adjust to align with something more representative of the culture your organisation is trying to create or they will leave which is not necessarily a bad thing if their values don’t align with your organisation’s. It’s far worse if they stick around and pollute the well with destructive cynicism.  

New Process, New Culture

*Data-driven, staged investment model

**Here’s how.

Identify Your Blockers

Dave Gray and Alex Osterwalder collaborated on something they call the Culture Map (download one here) that forces you to identify all of the blockers, by way of process, systems or values, that prevent desired behaviours in your organisation.

Like anything, step one is acknowledging you have a problem, so using something like the culture map helps you to identify areas to focus on. It’s your job to then prioritise them in some sensical fashion - one method I like is the ICE method (score each problem out of 10 for Impact, Confidence and Ease, tally up the scores and start with the highest ratings).

Source: Strategyzer

Choose Your Focus Area

*the scores for time and cost are inverse (the higher the lower)

In the above case you might want to start with using Amazon Web Services to run experiments instead of, say, needing to host every little experiment on Core IT which subjects it to QA, typical IT processes and slows down experiments to the point where your ‘build, measure, learn’ cycle, as define in the Lean Startup, is nowhere near fast enough to move the needle and keep employee morale high.

You then might want to move on to revisiting your performance and procurement reviews.

In summary:

  • Identify what kind of organisation you want to be or what kind of outcome you desire
  • Determine what kind of attitudes and behaviours underpin achieving said outcome
  • Identify blockers to said attitudes and behaviours
  • Shortlist blockers
  • Prioritise your blockers
  • Create a way around the highest priority blocker first and work your way through the list

Ergo, strategy eats culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Innovate or die.

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Steve Glaveski

Steve Glaveski is the CEO and Co-Founder of Collective Campus which he established to help companies and their employees to create more meaningful impact in the world in an age of rapid change and increasing uncertainty. Steve also founded Lemonade Stand - a children's entrepreneurship program, wrote the Innovation Manager's Handbook vol 1 and 2, hosts Future², an iTunes chart topping podcast on corporate innovation and entrepreneurship and is a keynote speaker. He previously founded HOTDESK, an office sharing platform and has worked for the likes of Westpac, Dun & Bradstreet, the Victorian Auditor General's Office, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Macquarie Bank. Follow him at @steveglaveski and Book a free 15-minute call with Steve to talk through your innovation objectives.

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