Have you ever heard the saying “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.”? Many say the quote originated from Peter Drucker, an influential thinker and writer about management theory and practice. Armstrong McGuire provides strategic planning to our clients, and in many cases we see that the culture of an organization needs to change to create and implement a strategic plan. Staff and Board members can work hard to create an organizational strategy, but if the culture does not support the change that is needed – the status quo will win. In our client work we see great strategies sometimes being resisted by strong organizational cultures. A culture can be so powerful that it resists change - no matter how good the strategy is. When starting the strategic planning process, most organizations ask, “Where do we want to expand services?” and “How can we serve more?” when they should be asking “Who do we want to be?”, “What are we great at?” and “What makes us unique?” A strategic plan is built using these questions and others to develop priorities, tactics, measures, and identify the resources needed for implementation. The key to success of the plan is tracking progress towards the stated goals.
“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” Peter Drucker
An organization’s culture can be defined as its self-sustaining patterns of behaving, feeling, thinking and believing. Organizations can also use culture to their benefit. The book Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch by Curt W. Coffman and Kathie Sorenson builds on Drucker’s breakfast theory and teaches organizations how to turn culture into a competitive advantage. “Culture isn’t the enemy of strategy and performance, but an equal player in the game. Each of us moves daily through a myriad of cultures, from neighborhood, to organization, school and church. And it is our connection to those cultures, which either inspires the best within us or reduces us to average.” Coffman and Sorenson teach readers how to use culture to make your work environment what you’ve always wanted it to be: a healthy place with inspired people and boundless organic growth.
“You can’t do strategy without your culture. You need to choose a strategy that fits your culture.” Curt Coffman and Kathie Sorenson
Hiring a professional consultant to facilitate a Board retreat(s) to start the strategic planning process is an important step. An organizational assessment leading up to that retreat will allow a third party to review organizational documents, interview stakeholders, and conduct focus groups and/or conduct a survey to provide a starting point for the retreat. Conversations about culture and strategy follow and our hope is that we can help nonprofits combine the two so that they can eat together. Please think of Armstrong McGuire for your next strategic plan.
More about Peter Drucker and the mix of strategy and culture: