Culture eats strategy

“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”   — Henry Kissinger

For change leaders, this quote from Kissinger rings true. But what gets in the way of getting people to move from the current state to a desired future state where they have not been before? Sometimes, it can be the very culture of the organization that gets in the way. Those organizational values that are held dear: like academic freedom or autonomy might be threatened. Or it can just be just the “way we get things done around here” that pose an obstacle and create resistance.

In fact, Peter Drucker once said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In other words, even the most elegant strategies will fail if a leader is not paying attention to the organization’s culture, those behaviors, attitudes, and values that are enacted each and every day. When assessing both current and future states, it is very helpful to add a culture assessment to your toolkit. Here is a one-page culture assessment, adapted by Dan Olson for the Star Collaborative from The New Leader’s 100-day Action Plan: An On-Boarding Process for Leaders at Every Level.

Cultural assessment4

  1. Identify the new desired culture you are trying to create
  2. Evaluate the current culture (behaviors, attitudes, values)
  3. Detail what changes need to be made to move from current to new
  4. Identify key individuals’ roles in change (block it, watch it, help it, make it happen)
  5. Determine effective ways to move stakeholders to appropriate level of support
  6. Detail what changes need to be made to move from current to new

Anita Rios


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