During our time in grad school, the other Strengths Doctors partners and I had an opportunity to learn from some of the brightest scientists and researchers in the world.
It was there, from Dr. Sang Lee, that I first heard this quote:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
I’ve experienced this idea firsthand, and I’m certain you have as well.
How many times have you seen a “great idea” for your organization get presented — and then somehow, as time passes, it mysteriously gets buried. When the dust settles, you reflect back on the process only to realize… you have NO idea how it died!
Short answer: the culture killed it.
We’ve talked before about how to stop sucking and some other fundamental elements of talent theory. Well, the ideas of natural talent can also be extrapolated to groups of people, and even further out to organizations as a whole.
And this is where “talent” connects with “culture.”
Innate talent is actually where much of a company’s original culture comes from. Where the natural proclivity of the leadership lies, therein you will find the ethos that trickles down and over time becomes ingrained into the very fabric of that culture.
Apple, Inc. is innovative, tight-lipped, opinionated, and has a high appreciation for aesthetics — much like Mr. Steve Jobs.
The Virgin Group is daring, eclectic, experimental, and adventurous — much like its founder, Sir Richard Branson.
These things are not coincidences.
To be sure, leaders change and things shift. But the notion of natural talent can give us some great insight into what’s driving the culture of our organization. It’s even more noticeable in small organizations.
If culture is going to eat your strategy for breakfast, this is a pretty important thing to pay attention to.
The key is this: learn the natural “bend” of your company by studying the leadership’s talents. Then leverage this knowledge to help you position and present your strategies. Speak their language. Instead of fighting the culture, you’ll be going with the current.