Culture Enables Strategy

How do strategy and culture complement each other?

First, it's important to emphasise that in a world where today represents the fastest things have ever been - but the slowest they will ever be - it's untenable to think that strategy can drive culture. The new reality? "Culture enables strategy."

What does "enable" mean? It's a mistake to even think about developing a meaningful strategy until you have first identified the culture you need to compete successfully in the future. In a turbulent world, strategy is, at best, a work in progress. It represents agreed signposts on the journey but the organizational path you have to create and follow is ultimately defined by your culture.

The implications?

It would be foolish to suggest that you don't need a strategy. It's just that it must always be subordinate to, and informed by, the culture you need (not want) to create in the future. What will be around long after strategy has been shredded is your culture. This implies:

  1. Although it's been a mainstay of academic teaching for several decades, it's a misstep to define the strategy and then ask, "What sort of culture do we need to land the strategy?" If you seek to change the culture every time you have to revisit the strategy, fail now … it will save time later.
  2. When subordinate teams lack insight and commitment - strategy is less impactful than it might be. When peer teams lack emotional buy-in - strategy is less effective than it should be. But when tomorrow's culture doesn't enable it - strategy amounts to little more than what could be.
  3. A "black swan" (unexpected and sweeping economic disruption) running into the road is assured. If strategy and culture collide there will be only one winner.
  4. Competitive advantage is fleeting. Today's point of difference is what it will take tomorrow just to get in the game. The only truly sustainable competitive advantage is how quickly the organization learns (culture).
  5. In a business climate marked by turbulence, the value of developing strategic scenarios is compelling.

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