Why Organizational Culture Matters: “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

Rolled-Eggs_Cascadian-Farm

Photo Credit: Rolled Eggs, by Cascadian Farm, Flickr

What Is Organizational Culture?

Although the language of culture is used frequently, organizational members do not always understand what is meant by the term “organizational culture.”

In his classic book on the subject (Organizational Culture and Leadership), Edgar Schein summarizes organizational culture as the accumulated shared learning of a give group. This shared learning is observed through a variety of organizational realities such as the way people behave, established group norms, and espoused values.

Culture is essentially the organizational air we breathe. Like air, culture is often not seen directly. Rather, it is seen indirectly through how organizational members engage in their work, how they behave, how they embody group norms, and how they live out espoused values.

Why Does Organizational Culture Matter?

Other authors, such as Patrick Lencioni in The Advantage, highlight the vital dimension of culture.

Lencioni argues that organizational health is the greatest opportunity for organizational improvement and competitive advantage. In contrast to what Lencioni refers to as smart business—engaging fundamentals like strategy, marketing, finance, and technology—organizational health is the real place where competitive advantage may shine beyond the first half of the equation of smart business.

These days, especially in the day and age of big data in business, being smart as a organization is not enough. Organizations also need to be healthy—they need to pay attention to their organizational culture.

“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

Expressing Lencioni’s points another way, Peter Drucker put the essence of culture in the following language: “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.”

  1. Does strategy (smart organizational practice) matter? Absolutely!
  2. Is strategy (smart organizational practice) enough? No!
  3. Therefore, what do organizational leaders need to do? Leaders must focus on both smart strategy AND healthy culture

Smart and Healthy

As you think about your organization, are you leading and managing in a way that encourages both smart organizational practice AND healthy organizational culture? What practical steps can you take in the coming weeks to help improve the culture of your organization, division, or team?

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For those interested in reading more on the priority of organizational culture, see the following post entitled: Organizational Culture vs. Organizational Identity

Servant Leadership and #GLS14

Jesus Washing Feet, Fulbourn St. Vigor, Steve Day, Flickr

Photo Credit: Jesus Washing Feet, Fulbourn St. Vigor, Steve Day, Flickr

The 2014 Global Leadership Summit, put on by the Willow Creek Association, is taking place yesterday and today (August 14-15). Although I’m not present at the conference, I’m following key trending insights, particularly on Twitter (#GLS14).

Leadership and the Introvert

There are several takeaways from Day One. Bill Hybels shared key lessons in his opening session. Susan Cain’s reminder of the presence and importance of introverts in our organizations was also a welcome addition to the public leadership discourse.

Susan Cain called us to “remember that one-third of your workforce is probably introverted,” that “most introverts are deeply passionate about a few things,” and that “they are leaders because they were passionate first.”

Patrick Lencioni on Servant Leadership

While the reports coming out throughout the first day were many, I especially appreciated the themes Patrick Lencioni addressed. Here are a few key tweets from Lencioni session:

  • “Leaders sacrifice themselves for the good of others.”
  • “If we’re doing it for ourselves, we’re going to leave a trail of tears behind.”
  • “If you’re not interested in developing yourself, don’t be a leader.”
  • “The best reason for someone to become a leader is to sacrifice themselves for the good of others.”
  • “Most people don’t really want to change the world, thy want to become known as the person who changed the world.”
  • “I’m tired of hearing about servant leadership because I don’t think there’s any other kind of leadership.”
  • “Servant leadership is the only leadership. All else is economics.”

Servant Leadership for the Good of Others

I’m passionate about servant leadership. Though I would not express this quite the same as Lencioni (I like hearing more about servant leadership!), the point is well-taken. Leadership at its core is about service. It is about valuing others. It is about focusing on their needs. It is about sacrificing for their good of those we lead.

Servant Leadership Next Steps

While this post is just a quick highlight of some of the servant leadership themes raised at #GLS14, some may wish to dig a bit deeper. Here is one of my journal articles on the topic, providing both a biblical and research-based frame for engaging servant leadership. Servant leadership is not only an ethical approach to leadership—it is also effective!

Enjoy the article, and enjoy Day 2 of #GLS14