We believe he meant that you can have a brilliant strategy, but if it is not aligned with the culture of the organization that will have to execute that strategy, the strategy will simply fail; and we agree!
In an article about the dependency of strategy on culture, Ryan Rieches’ presents the picture shown above that makes the point. The strategy says to move right, but the thread of commonality running through employees’ thinking, feeling, and behaving points left. In which direction will this organization move?
Similarly, Booz & Company says that “Culture is the oil that makes the company’s value creation engine turn frictionless.”
But of course that is only true if culture and strategy are aligned. As hard as it is to develop a winning strategy given economic challenges and uncertainties, given the technical challenges of product development and the vagaries of the market, and given that every single competitor is also trying desperately to develop a winning strategy, we must also consider the constraints and capabilities of our organization’s culture. In fact, we must consider it first.
Booz & Company advises, “You can’t do strategy without your culture. You need to choose a strategy that fits your culture, and you need to leverage your culture.”
This approach starts by gaining a clear understanding of the current culture and then identifying the unique competitive advantage that your particular culture enables.
So culture may not always eat strategy for breakfast. If they are well-aligned, they thrive together. But if they clash, the strategy is done for.