Culture vs. Strategy

No, culture doesn’t destroy your business strategy. However, if you choose a strategy that requires staff to do things that go against their cultural norms – your strategy will fail as culture pulls these people back to their ‘normal’ way of doing things.

Culture can certainly affect your strategy, but it is incorrect to say that it will destroy your strategy. For instance, if you establish a positive and cohesive culture, but choose a flawed business strategy, you will fail as a cohesive culture doesn’t amend poor strategy.

The difference between culture vs. strategy

Culture and strategy are almost like two sides of the same coin. They influence one another, so what is important is the strength of their alignment, not the power one has over the other. Shape your company’s culture in a way that makes your chosen business strategy more effective. That means that any major changes you make to your strategy will require changing your culture accordingly. If you view them as separate things, that is when your culture and strategy will destroy each other.

An example of a successful culture and strategy is a company called Zappos, who were well known for their focus on customer service. The company ensured that each team member, regardless of their role, received training in customer service and spent some part of their time answering customer phone calls. This practice was important to their company culture. What many people do not talk about is that having such a focus on customer service is a strategic decision. As CEO Tony Hsieh discusses in his book, Delivering Happiness, Zappos went from making $1 million in sales to making $1 billion in sales over the span of 10 years. Strategically, Zappos decided that having great customer service is important to achieve success and growth. Having this core value in their culture is what drove them to achieve success.

While it is easy to worry about the power culture has to derail your business strategy, very few companies have made the effort to integrate their culture into their business strategy and model, and create a culture that drives business success. When it comes to culture vs. strategy, the decision is yours to make.