When Culture Eats Strategy (and Change) for Lunch – It’s All About Leadership

“The Attitude of the Captain is reflected in the Wardroom.  The Attitude of the Wardroom is reflected in the crew.”

VADM Charles A. Lockwood, Commander Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet  1943-1946

A few days ago I posted an article on the strengths and perils of a loyalty-based corporate culture.  An even more fundamental issue is the overriding importance of having an intentional corporate culture.

We all want to be proud of our culture: the cultural heritage of our country, the culture of our town, of our community, of our church, of our company.  How hard is it to keep a good culture? Hard.  How hard is it to change a culture? Near impossible (some have opined that the difficulty is directly proportional to the square of the number of people in the group!).  What do we have if we do not have an intentional culture?  We have an ad hoc culture, made up by accident and happenstance as we went along, which is only seldom the best we can do.

Be assured, wherever there are two or more humans associated in any way, there is a culture.  We are pack animals.  The culture of each “pack” we are members of is the framework that defines that pack.  Regrettably, while humans have both the capacity to think and to think about our thoughts, most us us are only occasionally intentional in our thinking and our actions.  We just go with the flow, making it up as we go along.  As a result our culture in any given environment most often just happens, and then what has happened comes to define the rules of pack behavior – either good, mediocre, or bad (think, for example of the ad hoc culture of a mob) – which reinforce the culture and the behaviors that defined it.

The best organizations have an intentional culture that not only reinforces their strategic objectives – it is part of their strategic objectives.  In this article from Fast Company Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch , Shawn Parr discusses how the top organizations live their culture and execute their strategy within it.  His first step to an intentional culture, a dynamic and engaged leadership, reflects VADM Lockwood’s words – it all starts from the top.

It is either a wonderful or depressing fact that the way I as a leader in my organization show up every day defines the culture of my organization and the culture fostered by my direct reports.  If I like my culture, I get to congratulate myself!  It looks just like me!  If I don’t like my culture, I must look in the mirror.  My organization’s culture again looks just like me and the values I am living.

Questions for the day:  How am I intentionally living my values and defining my organization’s culture today?

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