Does Culture Eat Strategy for Lunch?

In Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch, Shawn Parr at Fast Company makes an extremely seductive argument. Though he doesn’t mention it, this type of analysis goes back to Alfred Thayer Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. Except that Mahan does not fall into this trap of concluding that culture matters more than strategy.

http://www.tempobook.com/2012/01/28/does-culture-eat-strategy-for-lunch/

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3 thoughts on “Does Culture Eat Strategy for Lunch?

  1. But without the want for both culture and strategy, where is the need for either?

    Culture might fulfill the satisfying needs of a society, but strategy makes those making strategic decisions, within a society, want to feel good, about their strategic decisions.

    In other words, it is not only a satisfying cultural decision that went into the strategy of “don’t worry, be happy”, but the person making that decisions should want to feel good about the decision that went into that narrative.

    Of course I am assuming that the person making that decision is human after all, and not some computer-generated noise.

  2. Hi Larry,

    Firstly thanks for the being the first commenter. Welcome to my blog.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you question the want/need for culture and strategy. As far as culture goes, I believe it exists regardless of whether anyone wants it or needs it. It is an inescapable outcome of any group of people repeatedly interacting with each other.

    I find strategy more plausible as a candidate for something which we could ‘opt out’ of, but as with culture I believe it to be an inescapable result of existing. Something as simple as acquiring food quickly creates the need for a strategy – mine is get paid for working, then swapping the money for food at the supermarket. As soon as anyone plans to do anything, strategy exists.

    I think the original post by Shawn Parr intends to promote the idea that one of the keys to building a successful business is to create a strong culture, the title seems to suggest that if a business has a strong enough culture, a strategy is not even necessary. An idea Venkat seems to disagree with.

    Personally I think promoting a strong culture within a business would be a strategic decision on the part of those running the company. It allows the leadership to have confidence that the employees will continue to operate according to the culture when unsupervised or undirected, this means there’s far less need for management to spend all their time making sure that the lower level workers are performing their job as expected; the employees are bought in to the idea of “service with a smile”, so that’s exactly what they deliver. Perhaps even more significantly, a strong culture creates huge opportunities for branding and marketing and has the potential to differentiate the employer when looking to hire ‘top talent’.

    I believe a culture will always exist within an organisation, as will strategy. All that is new is that people have realised that there can be huge benefits to aligning ones culture with ones strategy. As that seems to lead to happier and more comfortable working environments, I’m all for it.

    Simon.

    • “I’m not sure what you mean when you question the want/need for culture and strategy.”

      I am assuming people need resources to survive, but then, when they have all they need they become people of want. In other words, they have all they need, but want more.

      “Something as simple as acquiring food quickly creates the need for a strategy – mine is get paid for working, then swapping the money for food at the supermarket.”

      In this scenario, you don’t need food, you need a job. Once you have a job you are able to go to the supermarket and buy food that you need and want, i.e. if you have money left-over after buying what you need, you are able to satisfy your wants.

      What I suggest is that a need corresponds to a positive charged particle, while a want corresponds to a negative particle. Therefore, if culture is successful, it has the potential of forming two potentials, one negative and one positive.

      I guess I am suggesting, in commenting on your post, is that we bounce between the two potentials between culture and strategy, depending on our needs and wants, and if they are satisfying or feels good, two different and distinct emotions.

      It is all a judgement call.

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