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Culture Eats Strategy

Management guru Peter Drucker is attributed to the quote “Culture eats strategy for Breakfast”. The Drucker institute summarized Drucker’s career like this. Born in 1909 in Vienna, Austria, he grew up in a household of great intellectual minds. After studying law and receiving his PHD in Germany he moved to England in the 1930s. The Jewish question was banned and burned by the Nazis. Studying with economic students who followed John Maynard Keyens, Drucker realized that his fellow students were interested in the behavior of commodities while he was interested in the behavior of people.

He moved to the United States in 1937 where he served as a correspondent for several British newspapers. In the 1940’s he took a close peek inside General Motors and published his landmark book about the corporation in 1946. Then Chairman Alfred Sloan inspired his work, “The chief executive must be absolutely tolerant and pay no attention to how a man does his work, let alone whether he likes a man or not. The only criteria must be performance and character.”

In the 1950’s Drucker joined the faculty of New York University as a professor of management where he stayed for 21 years. His major consulting clients were Sears & Roebuck along with IBM. Oops…

Peter Drucker’s consulting was surprisingly simple. Who is your customer? What have you stopped doing lately (so as to free up resources for the new and innovative)? What business are you in? Former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch was inspired to close every business in which GE was not Number 1 or Number 2 in the market when Drucker asked this simple question. “If you weren’t already in this business, would you enter it today?"

This week a friend made a career move. I asked, “What happened”? “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” was the response. So many times, we as consultants see a business with detached emotion for what it really is. When we try to communicate our recommendation, which by the way is the product we sell, we are met with fierce resistance. I have surmised that many, especially family owned businesses, are so entrenched with memories and tradition, it’s difficult to change. The owner will tell one story but often times the profit and loss statement tell the opposite. Long term employees who are the most valuable asset, are the last to change and will fight all the way to the end. When coaching young people who want a business career, I always say the same thing. “Learn business by studying accounting. You don't have to be an accountant and you will be better positioned to make reasonable decisions.” The numbers always tell the truth and many times are opposite of what ownership and management recite. Culture is valuable and necessary to develop what today is known as “User Experience” or UX. Harness this great power and guide your company to success by implementing necessary change for business in today’s ever-changing economy.

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