The world famous best-selling author and business guru Peter Drucker originally uttered these brilliant words and the then president of Ford, Mark Fields brought this impactful message to a wider audience that if a strategy is incompatible with a company culture, eventually culture wins over in the end and the strategy becomes extremely difficult to implement.
Louis V. Gerstner Jr., former CEO of IBM said that “The thing I have learned about IBM is that culture is everything”.
So why is culture so important?
Without a positive, healthy and productive culture, strategies; regardless of how brilliant they are in theory, are incredibly hard to implement if they are incompatible with a firms core cultural values. For example, if a company decides that its core strategy going forward will be one of innovation when no culture of innovation ever existed in the company previous to this and none of the companies cultural core values are ones of creativity and freedom of thought required for an innovative environment, then this company will inevitably face major problems down the road when trying to innovate. A major strategic shift requires a major cultural shift if it is ultimately to succeed. This cultural shift could take a considerable length of time to take hold(years in many cases) so the more sensible approach is to look at a firms current cultural strengths and ensure these are aligned with strategy when devising strategic plans and this will ensure a smoother execution of strategy.
For example, take a pharmaceutical firm with a culture and pride in producing high-end, high margin, cutting edge innovative pharmaceutical solutions. However if management decided in the morning to focus on low margin generic drugs in a very congested marketplace, how do you think this would affect the general workforce? I would hasten to say this strategic tornado could majorly de-motivate a creative workforce and many may decide to consider careers on other firms where they are culturally more compatible.
In essence, culture should be regarded as a strategic enabler so ensure both are aligned when creating a strategic plan in order to ensure smooth execution for your organisation or inevitably culture will eventually eat strategy for breakfast.