Written By: Thom
By Thom Peters
Recently while reading through the local business news, I noticed the profile of a local agency leader. One of the things this leader said that stuck out to me was “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It was the first time I had heard this phrase, but I now know it has been around in for a while and is credited to Peter Drucker.
The phrase stood out for me for a particular reason. While I am a culture geek, I like to believe I am also a strategy nerd.
We are who we are. Our mission and our values (in other words, our culture) whether we are in the for- or non-profit world, built us, attracted people to us and are the core of who we serve.
As I look back in my life, I have seldom seen good outcomes when an organization strays from its culture. I’ve seen a vibrant and growing church nearly devastated with a new pastor whose theology is radically different from that which built the congregation. I have watched a once proud and highly impactful organization shredded to near death when new leadership ignored the culture that drove its work for decades. And so often I’ve watched a beloved family business flounder and die after selling.
But I am also a strategy guy and good strategy matters. It’s just that it must be built on the foundation of culture. Strategies that don’t align with your culture are doomed to fail. Look at your strategies through the filters of who you were built to serve and what has attracted people to work for you, volunteer for you and be served by your organization.
When a new project or initiative is failing, how do you know if it’s a culture or strategy problem?
I am so proud of our culture at Donor By Design Group. Ask any of our DBD team why we work here and what you will hear comes down to the nature of who we are. Years ago, we decided to verbalize it and the result, “What We Believe” has guided our work and our team development ever since.
While we’ve added people, launched new products and explored new markets throughout the years, our commitment to our culture hasn’t changed. These values give us focus and courage as we roll out new strategies.
Ultimately, it really wasn’t a hard call. Culture eats strategy for breakfast with a plate of hash and a side of bacon, every time.