Sorry Mr. Drucker – Culture does not eat strategy for breakfast

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‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ Peter Drucker.

You are likely familiar with this well-known quote from Peter Drucker. It has been recited by business leaders, quoted in blogs and shared many times on social media. Drucker is well-known for his work on business management, which has influenced business as we know it today.

Drucker’s assertion certainly holds weight, yet, I humbly disagree with it. In my experience, culture does not eat strategy for breakfast. I have seen many companies with excellent corporate culture struggling to keep the lights on because their strategy was not on point. What is the relationship between strategy and culture? What elements of your strategy is your corporate culture unable to save?

Breaking down Drucker, who famously said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

On the surface, Drucker’s quote implies that corporate culture determines company success.

What Drucker meant when he coined those words is that it is not enough to have a strategy; you need the right people to carry it. Your employees also need to feel passion for your company and your goals for your strategy to see success. He was stressing the importance of the human factor in an organisation. I do agree that people are important to a business. This is evident in the difference between making the right or wrong hire.

Yes, culture can impact the success of your business strategy. If you cannot unify your employees around your strategy, then you have little hope of success.

Of course, all of this assumes that you already have a strategy in place. What happens when the business leaders are struggling to create a clear strategy? Can culture really make a difference in the absence of strategy?

The structural differences between culture and strategy

Culture and strategy are two very different components of business success. A successful business will have achieved a viable strategy and a great company culture. A company might have a great culture, but is this enough to facilitate action and decision making?

What exactly does organisational strategy include? A good strategy includes a plan with guiding principles, to then influence the actions and priorities of those in the business. Conversely, it also decides what your organisation will not prioritise. Strategy is essentially about ‘how’ you will allocate resources, and then what you will do with them. Finally, the C-suite often maps out the strategy and implements it from the top down.

Culture, on the other hand, is less straightforward, less structural. Unspoken behaviours, social norms and mindsets influence culture. Culture is malleable. While culture often originates from the business leaders, changes to culture can also happen from lower down in the organisation.

Culture cannot be the only pillar holding up your organisational strategy.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast… when your strategy is a failure

Even the greatest culture won’t save a sinking business strategy. Yes, a strong culture can bring your company closer together. It can provide people with a set of goals, and a shared purpose. But, it cannot resolve financial challenges, retain customers or define the purpose of your business.

Here are few things culture cannot do:

Culture cannot refine the purpose of your business.
Culture is reliant on strategy to work. If your people do not have a strategy to implement, your culture is about coffee breaks and water cooler conversations. Therefore, your business’ purpose needs to be rock solid for you to save your strategy.

Culture does not improve financial performance.
Good corporate culture does not equal money in the bank. In fact, before making changes to your company culture, I would recommend getting your pricing strategy on the right track. Ensure to regularly update your cash flow statements, and fix the viability of your products and services.

Culture will not ensure customer satisfaction.
Culture cannot save you if your customers are unhappy with your services or products. Getting your strategy back on track is about speaking with your customers, thus ensuring they get regular updates from you. Good strategy is about addressing customer needs, so they remain satisfied in the long term.

Elevate your strategy with Resonate

Are you questioning whether you are making the right strategic moves? Are you pouring time, effort and money into your business, but not seeing the expected or desired rate of return? Do you work on your business strategy in a deliberate and premeditated manner?

I help B2B businesses define or refine their strategy. I provide strategic advice and consulting on various facets of strategy; business strategy, corporate strategy, product/service strategy, functional strategy, b2b go to market, competitive strategy, pricing strategy etc.

My aim is to work with business leaders to help them make sound business decisions. I find more often than not that the issues businesses face are caused by strategic issues.

So whether you are looking to enter a new market, create a go-to-market, develop a channel strategy, reshuffle strategic priorities, discuss execution, soundboard talent issues, have a conversation about your financial or resource constraints, let’s connect, let’s talk. Let’s discuss the challenges you are facing or objectives you wish to meet. Let me work collaboratively with you to help you get there.

RK is the CEO & Co-Founder of Resonate.

RK is Resonate’s chief strategist, thought leader, and IT industry veteran. Our clients depend on RK to advise on their business strategy, channel strategy, and sales strategy. 

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