Corporate culture: THE framework for successful strategy work

“Cultur eats strategy for breakfast” – this quote by Peter Drucker, one of the most important management thinkers of the last century, is still of central importance for successful strategy work. He thus makes it clear that the achievement of strategic goals can only succeed if the strategy is aligned with the corporate culture. But why is that? And how do you manage to combine culture and strategy into a successful whole in your company?

With the following five points, may I offer you my experience in this regard.

1. involvement and participation as a key element

The overall responsibility for strategy work undoubtedly lies at the top management level. Of central importance, however, is the participation of those employees who work specifically in the market, with customers, service offerings and products, in sales channels and value streams.

Regardless of hierarchical level, age and area of expertise, discussion and debate must be possible at eye level – and that cannot be taken for granted.

For this to be successful, not only do experts need to be willing and competent to provide strategic input alongside their operational workload, but they also need the appropriate culture of participation. In any case, this gives rise to positive energy for implementation.

2. openness and transparency

We see strategy work as shaping our own future – this requires the courage to discuss opportunities and risks openly and transparently. Even in the underlying analysis of the status of the market, positioning and core competencies, a climate must be created for all those involved that allows them to openly contribute their own views and opinions.

A critical look at the implementation quality and depth of previous strategies often leads to very self-critical images when reflected on transparently. Experience shows that often only parts are implemented and the operational pressure provides too little time to take up agreed strategic initiatives. Only an open climate of discussion can create the framework for making the causes and background understandable and thus workable for the future.

3. courage to try something new, including the gap

The development of strategic thrusts is more than the logical derivation of existing analysis results. A good strategy does not “just happen”, but arises from courageous forward thinking, from the mental anticipation of possible future scenarios and the clarity that in this context the strategic plan is always only a substitute for chance by error.

It is already clear that, in retrospect, only some of the assumptions will have been correct in a few years’ time, that some things will be completely different, and that courage and a corresponding corporate culture will be needed to avoid taking the easy way out and continuing with the past.

The constructive handling of uncertainty only takes place with the appropriate corporate culture.

4. patience, flexibility and trust in the strategy process

A strategy process is not simply an update of the status quo or a somewhat longer-term medium-term plan.

If management dictates that this process must be followed through exactly, then important creative elements are lost. Of course, the process needs clear guardrails, has clearly named milestones, and cannot be open-ended. However, flexibility is needed here in many sub-steps. It is important that all those involved patiently and flexibly take up the movements and special issues that sometimes arise unexpectedly.

Often, there is a demand from those involved to know the “desired” outcome as precisely as possible at the outset, in order to know how best to contribute. That would then be the culture of well-behaved work – but we strive for the creative development of powerful images of the future.

The patience and flexibility to deal with unexpected forks in the road and loops, and the confidence that the collective power to find solutions will produce a powerful strategy, are essential cultural elements.

5. day-to-day business versus strategy – how do you bring it together?

The broad involvement of operational managers leads to scheduling bottlenecks and resource conflicts and highlights the challenge of “switching”.

Working on operational customer or production issues today, taking a relaxed view of the next five years tomorrow, and still thinking beyond one’s own area of responsibility for the entire company – that is indeed challenging. Our everyday consulting work also shows that there are very different images and knowledge of the phenomenon of strategy and that rarely does anyone openly say: “I have no experience with strategy work”.

This requires practice and the culture that each person in charge assumes responsibility not only for his or her own area but also for the whole, contributes to the common methodological framework for the strategy and, above all, can grow with the process. Practice only comes from DOING and the development of this competence succeeds with reflection. Ideally, with patience and flexibility, overarching operational issues can then be solved right away, thus achieving the famous “quick wins” while the strategy process is still underway.

Our consulting services are modularly structured in phases. The five points described are actively taken up. In addition to sound methodology and concrete content, we bring cultural work in particular to implementation support.

Talk to us about your individual needs – after reflecting together, we will be very happy to present you with the mix of measures tailored to your requirements.