Does Your Culture Need a Strategy Upgrade?

I’ve heard it said culture eats strategy for lunch. I believe the quote was originally from Peter Drucker. The quote may have been true at the time of Peter’s death, but I believe that many of the organizations that Peter worked with have struggled in the new economy.

Mr. Drucker has had a profound impact on leadership and management thinking in many successful organizations over the past 50 years.

If Peter were still with us today, I believe he might say culture and strategy both are needed to create extraordinary organizations. Being overly reliant on either could be a prescription for failure.

Culture can take an organization a long way toward success. Culture can help an organization attract, develop, and retain great people. It can help the leader set direction for their organization by leveraging key people and partners to grow a successful organization.

What’s the bad side of culture? Culture can create leaders who are unable to change with the times. The longer an organization’s culture evolves, the more it becomes a victim of its own success. Few organizations remain market leaders over several generations without placing a higher value on the future and the market’s evolving needs.

Today, corporate lifecycles are shorter, technology disrupts all industries, and globalization continues to change what’s required of a successful business manager.  Business managers lead the business through times of change. I use the term business manager the same way Mr. Drucker did, as a positive title for the senior executives in corporations.

Peter decided to be an expert in management because he felt it was where the action was in an organization. I would agree, but not many of today’s thought leaders see it the same way. I believe they read certain quotes and take them out of context; I call it them the twitter leaders and they can do irreparable harm to your growing business. Peter embraced both sides of his brain when developing his thought leadership. Today, successful leaders must also know how to manage their business or failure will be the long term outcome of their efforts. A leader’s messages don’t fit in 140 characters, nor should they try.

Drucker believed in extraordinary leaders, but would not have counted on them to be able to replicate their success for several generations. He felt you could learn much about the future from looking at the past and present. His approach was very management driven. I believe many of our economy’s current rising stars would challenge the way Peter saw corporate and entrepreneurial success.

I believe entrepreneurialism is why Peter enjoyed working so closely with nonprofits. They provided a unique combination of passion, purpose, and innovation. When your read Peter talk about his nonprofit partners you can see how much he admires innovative leadership. Most nonprofits require significant creativity to remain a success in changing times. Good nonprofits are much more entrepreneurial than larger corporations.

My guess is that nonprofits are forced to adopt a more fluid approach to how they run their organization because they do not have the financial resources required to succeed without a more flexible strategy.  These nonprofits learn to develop more agile strategies to sustain their organization’s outreach. I believe that we are just starting to see the rise of super nonprofits who shape the nonprofit landscape precisely because they are working with financial capabilities that would have been considered pipedreams even a generation ago.

Does this mean that strategy becomes dominant across the world again? Will strategy crush culture in the battle for corporate success? I think it’s is too early to tell. Here’s what I do know, as the global landscape continues to change, it will be the value of both your culture and how you execute your strategy that determines what the next generation of leadership looks like.  The next generation of leadership has already discovered what happens in cultures without people who challenge their leaders’ thinking.  Future leaders have grown up understanding the great power of leveraging technology, but still need to learn how to create a growing economy that creates jobs for others.

Without clear definitions or strategy, many successful cultures fail to adapt and change their marketplace to provide a sustainable business model.  Most markets can only support a couple market leaders and the rest become extinct until the next hot culture attracts the talent to disrupt their earlier organizational success. Very few market leading organizations can sustain themselves over several generations as market leaders.

Take a look at Google and you begin to see the challenge of developing a successful growing culture.  Many of their engineers considered leaving to find new career paths that are more suited for the life they want to live. How many 20 hour work days can a person take?

At some point, we all want to have an opportunity to grow while still working at a great place and starting families. These life requirements ultimately change the culture of the organization. A successful organization creates a blended culture that allows for both the younger entrepreneur to thrive while also allowing the organization to create the structure and strategy required to leverage their experienced individuals’ expertise.   Now this calls for a longer term strategy.

Over the next several weeks we share several strategies that can help you complement your growing, evolving culture. See you here!




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