Question: what is the difference between yogurt and many corporations?
Answer: if you leave yogurt alone long enough, it will eventually develop a culture.
The title is a quote apocryphally attributed to Peter Drucker. Think of all the great places where you have worked. Remember all of the great strategies? Remember all of the great people and environments? I honestly have to answer no to the first question and definitely to the second. When I have been part of a talented, hardworking group of people who are willing and even anxious to help each other, amazing things have happened. I don’t know if everything that was done was directly part of the strategy, but it made for happy customers, patients, clients, etc.
Strategy is important. But not as important as culture. Here are the two sentences on strategy. Every company, every person, every group needs a strategy. Otherwise you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish and therefore you’ll probably not accomplish your goals.
There are basically combinations you can have:
- good strategy / good culture
- good strategy / bad culture
- bad strategy / good culture
- bad strategy / bad culture.
What will happen with the first and last items on the list is self-evident. Let’s look at the other two.
If you have a first rate strategy and a poor culture, you are not going to have the resources to pull off your strategy. People are just not going to do the little extras that make things go, that solve all of the small problems that come up. They are not going to take extra steps. They are going to be looking for other jobs.
On the other hand, it is very hard to have a bad strategy and a good culture. In that situation, the culture is going to revamp that strategy until it is a good strategy and then great. People make the necessary changes and put in all of the extras at work to either revamped the strategy or come up with a new strategy that is going to succeed. In fact it will be very hard to develop a bad strategy if you have a good culture because people in a culture will work together to ensure that the strategy is a good one.
What constitutes a good culture is going to be different from place to place, but in the end that culture is made up of the group of individuals with shared values, a shared goals, and an unselfish attitude. Then magic just happens.