How Culture is the ultimate strategy


Culture eats Strategy every time

Culture vs Strategy

When you think about a company that inspires you, what pops up in your mind? Is it their strategy or their culture?

But first, let us familiarize ourselves with these two terms: strategy and culture, in the context of a working environment or company.

While strategy defines direction and focus, culture is the environment in which strategy lives or dies. The Strategy focuses on resourcefulness and skilfulness, while culture defines engagement, passion, and execution. With proper strategy, you create the rule for playing, but culture determines the way the game will be played.

The desire of every CEO or business owner all over the world is to develop a sustainable competitive advantage. Most often, competitive advantage based on pricing, products or processes are short-lived because market conditions can be very volatile, and worse still competitors in your industry constantly put you on your toes with new offerings.

Customers on the other hand expect faster, more responsive and personalized services while employee values and expectations keep shifting from time to time. However, one key competitive advantage you can consistently anchor on -  a differentiator that cannot be easily copied - is your company culture.

Unfortunately, most workplaces are ignorant of the fact that culture is an internal factor; a low-hanging fruit they can leverage as their competitive advantage against the competition, technological innovations, political and regulatory environments - factors they have no control over.

Nurturing Culture

Your company culture is unique to your organization and helps shape your brand’s identity, affecting everything. These include who joins, who stays, who succeeds, how the people behave, how teams communicate, and how decisions are made, among other things. In more established corporate companies, business leaders shape the organizations’ workplace culture and the rest of the employees emulate them in everything. In start-ups, on the hand, workplace culture is shaped by the founders and or the pioneer staff. It is therefore important that these categories of people focus on promoting only those cultures that would be advantageous to the organization and shun those that would be a disadvantage.

In his famous quote, Peter Drucker, an Austrian-American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation, says that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He explains that the culture of your company always determines success, regardless of how effective your strategy is. He emphasizes that no matter how solid and detailed the strategy of your organization is, if the people executing it didn't nurture the appropriate culture, your projects will still fail.

Though difficult to find a consistently high performance culture definition, some experts simply describe it as an optimal workplace that makes employees more effective.  In other words, companies with High performance cultures are great places to work.


According to research firm Gartner, organizations can create a high performance culture when they continuously balance “investment in people, process, physical environment, and technology to measurably enhance the ability of workers to learn, discover, innovates, lead and achieve efficiency and financial benefit.”

Human Resources is the business function in charge of culture nurturing. It manages the firm’s human capital and aligns it to the overall strategic goals.

Culture is the Ultimate Strategy

Pillars of a High-Performing Culture

High performance is intrinsically linked to the performer. Like other resources in an organization, people are to be carefully and purposefully managed. Culture describes this human resource management process. Culture is then an important Strategic human resource management function, one that creates the right environment for high level performance.

So, how would you be able to spot a workplace that is high-performing? Although not exhaustive, below find core distinguishing attributes that describe an organization with the high-performing culture.

  • Effective performance reviews

In high-performance workplaces, HR managers collaborate with team managers to organize regular performance reviews. The reviews are meant to provide feedback, mentor employees, and help them understand their contribution to the organization. Employees too are allowed to give feedback to their supervisors. Performance  should come from a genuine motivation to create an uplifting work environment. A competent leadership team designs, creates, and assign relevant performance targets to every role in the organization.

  • Agility and security

Employees in high-performance organizations are highly adaptable. They are not afraid of taking calculated risks; this comes from knowing they are allowed to make mistakes without unfair consequences because failure is treated as a learning opportunity at all levels of management. Employees in an agile and secure organization are comfortable planning for change and aren't afraid to adjust strategy, work practices, processes or job descriptions to achieve results. Fear is not their cup of tea, and no mistake is hidden/covered for fear of victimization.