We’ve all heard the quote from Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It’s not that simple. It’s more like culture is the kitchen that your breakfast is prepared in, the grocery store where your food is purchased, the table your breakfast is served on, the plate that you eat from, and the utensils you eat with.  

If your culture isn’t right, your strategy isn’t worth the MBA. However, the reverse can overcome a lot. A great or even good culture can overcome a mediocre strategy. Real growth comes when you have both.

Your people are the most important part of your strategy.

Knowing where your organization is headed in the future is essential. But not when it comes at the expense of how your people feel day in and day out.

That’s because your people are the ones moving your strategy forward. They allow you to scale. Give you the ability to go. And take care of your customers, the process, the product and one another.

Have you ever wondered why your people often care more about the culture than the strategy?

It’s simple. They have to live in the culture every day. 

They’re the ones who have to navigate the politics. That have to trust and deal with the emotions of it all. Who wake up every morning and actually do the work. 

If they don’t feel safe, valued and supported, that work becomes something they have to do, instead of want to do.

As you walk the office, halls or floor of your business, keep your eyes and ears open. If you hear different variations on the theme “Monday is just a countdown to Friday” and the “Hang In There Kitty, It’s Almost Friday” posters* outnumber the artifacts of company or personal pride, your culture just plain isn’t working.

*For the younger audience reading this, you can consider this poster one of the first memes.

The culture that your people live in is created by your organization. When it’s created the right way – by deeds, not words – it can be the launching point for success.

In Ben Horowitz’s new book “What You Do Is Who You Are,” he writes something striking about culture: “…in fact, the most important aspects of an organization’s performance; quality, design, security, fiscal discipline, customer care are all culturally driven.”

Much like people, culture is never a finished thing. It has to keep evolving to support your people and consistently make space for them to keep growing. It has to meet your organization where it is now, where your people are and where your strategy is directing everyone’s efforts. 

Culture can be created with intention or by accident. Which of these is building your culture?

As for me, I oscillate between culture work either being complicated or really simple. There are so many data points and activities to observe and evaluate, as well as so much that can be asked and measured. 

However, it almost always comes down to four very simple things:

  1. What stories get repeated within the organization.
  2. How do you feel about the place you work?
  3. Why do you come to work everyday?
  4. Tell me about your boss?

Do you have the right culture in your organization? The best way to find out is to have an honest conversation with those who live it every day: your people.


Nathan Wadding, CEO Skinny Tie Media
Helping organizations build authentic communications that lead to a great culture.

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