Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast…¹

You’ve just hired Selma as your new controller. She has lunch in the staff room on Day 1 to quickly to get to know her new colleagues. She tells one of them that she’s excited to have found a company that develops and promotes their people. After all, she’s been told that by every leader who interviewed her so she believes it. In fact, it is what sold her on joining your company. Her new colleague George says, “Maybe that will be the case for you.  What I see is that they hire experts from the outside for every leadership position that comes up. You’re a case in point, in fact.”

This is how culture eats strategy for breakfast. Culture is simply “the way we do things around here”—the way people think and act.  

Every company has a culture that works for them or against them.

In the story above, the leaders say they value developing internal talent. It’s written as one of their core values/ beliefs in the strategic plan and in the new employee handbook.  Last year, the CEO presented an employee engagement strategy telling staff that developing home grown talent is a cornerstone of their plan.  Sadly, in the speed of their frenzied business, the CEO and her team often contradict this belief. And while the senior team are slow to see the disconnect, their employees are quick to point out the contradiction. They even teach new employees on Day 1 how things really get done around here.

Companies are perfectly designed to get exactly the results they are getting.

When we look at a company through the lens of the culture change pyramid (the central concept of Change the Culture, Change the Game) we start to understand how much culture creates or hinders results.

This is how culture eats strategy for breakfast. Culture is simply “the way we do things around here”—the way people think and act. | Chandler CoachesFrom the bottom up, we can see that:

Experiences drive Beliefs: “They say we believe is developing home grown talent but my experience is that they usually hire experts from the outside. Now I believe that we value experts over our own people.”

Beliefs drive Actions: I believe they will keep hiring externally so I am not going to push myself; I will be passed over for promotion anyway. I will do what’s necessary but not more. I’ll get a higher level job at a new company as soon as I get another year of experience here.”

Actions drive Results: “We missed our quarterly targets again. My boss is really stressed and he’s putting pressure on all of us. I don’t see how we’re going to turn things around. I am going to have to leave for sure…maybe earlier than I thought.”

A culture of accountability, combined with clear vision (the results we want), strategy (the actions we’ll take) and effective leadership (how we’ll walk the talk) are essential components to achieve big results.

“Either you manage culture or it manages you.”

 – Connors and Smith, Change the Culture, Change the Game


The choice is yours.



¹Peter Drucker, “father of modern management”, said it first. Mark Fields, recent CEO at Ford Motor Company, made it famous.


  1. Kathy Robertson on November 1, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Nailed it again Lisa!

  2. Angelo Pesce on November 11, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    As a leader the hardest thing I had to do was stay loyal to the values I spoke to and committed to. The need to fix a problem, help a friend and colleagues, save the organization embarrassment and other short term needs often trumped the long term benefits of staying true to the values. The trick is to figure out a way to stay true when short term needs are putting tremendous pressure to take a short cut. I wish I had a simple answer to that. I would be a millionaire. Enjoyed the article.

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