As a Peter Drucker fan, I have always been torn about his famous quote, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.” While I understand his point, as a strategist I think it is a dangerous statement—one that is too easy to misinterpret. So imagine my dilemma when I was asked to do a presentation for leaders and was told that the theme was that same quote! How could I honor the request while not being disrespectful? That thinking led me to an epiphany on strategic style that I think you will find interesting. Want to know more about your company’s strategic style and how it might be helping or hurting growth? Read on.

At the risk of sounding professorial, let me define a few terms so we are on the same page. Culture is a system of beliefs and values by which people interpret experiences and determine how to behave, individually and in groups. Culture makes things happen! An environment that is great at making things happen is a productive one and goes a long way toward success. I believe that is the reason behind Drucker’s quote. Strategy is inert; it is an idea or a vision. In itself, it has no power. But what strategy does is focus the action. It is an overarching concept that integrates the business and enables it to achieve its objectives. Without strategy there is a lot of trial and error and even conflicting agendas that set organizations back in time and money. So culture without strategy is chaos. Strategy without culture is hopeful thinking. Bottom line: You need both.

That led me to wonder how most companies operate. Are they strong on culture and weaker on strategy or the other way around? I created this four quadrant matrix that identifies four potential strategic styles:

A company can determine which quadrant they fall into by taking this simple quiz.  When you do, you will get information on which quadrant the company falls into, common practices of that type of company, flaws in that approach and solutions to improve it. The company who has the best chance of being the most successful in achieving growth goals will be in the upper right—reignite growth. The most common response is the upper left—operating engineers. Like most assessments the real value is in knowing where you are now so that you can work to evolve the style to the most successful one.

Once you have taken the quiz, you will learn things like:

  • Operating engineers are adept at developing goals and objectives but may be reaching those decisions based on past experience of the market rather than recalibrating for trends. Solutions may be “me-too” and emulate competitors instead of leading the industry. Growth typically comes from incremental operational growth or productivity gains.
  • If your company is on a Merry-Go-Round, there is a vision and mission and strategic planning happens every 3-5 years.   However, progress in inconsistent and accountability can be a problem. Knowing the strategy isn’t good enough if it doesn’t get implemented. Growth goals are higher but often missed.

So what do you do if you fall into one of these categories? In the 3D Breakthrough Methodology, each phase or “D” is there to overcome the over-reliance on your company’s natural strategic style and create a balance between strategy and culture.  To read more about this approach, click here.

If your company is an “operating engineer”, it will be important to start any strategic decision making with a thorough review of the market (and SWOT is not enough!) which is the first “D” and stands for Discovery. Next, this type of organization needs to be sure they establish a clear strategy (a choice of who to serve and how to win in that market) which is the second D and stands for Development. Then go for it!

For organizations who are on the “merry go round” the biggest emphasis needs to be on aligning the organization behind the strategy and figuring out how to implement it into every day work. This is the third D or Delivery. Each one of these “D’s” is covered in detail in the book Reignite: How Everyday Companies Spark Next Stage Growth. You can find out more about the book at www.reignitegrowth.com.

Which type is your company?  Take the quiz.

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