How does culture “eat” strategy?

What is culture?

In Organizational Culture and Leadership, Edgar Schein identifies 3 levels of culture:

  1. Artifacts;
  2. Espoused beliefs and values;
  3. Basic underlying assumptions.

I see the first two levels of culture as more “culture theatre” with the third level being actually the most important.

What is strategy?

In Good Strategy Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt describes the kernel of strategy as:
1. Diagnosis;

2. Guiding policy;

3. Coherent actions.

How does culture “eat” strategy?

A culture “eats” strategy when basic underlying assumptions mean:

  1. You can’t accept the diagnosis of a strategy;
  2. You can’t accept the guiding policies of a strategy;
  3. Therefore the actions appear to you to be incoherent and nonsensical… and you reasonably ignore them.

NOTE: There is no good citation that Peter Drucker ever said “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

NOTE: A lot of what Im saying is inspired by Edgar Schein who did say “culture constrains strategy” in Organisational Culture and Leadership.

Senior Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

Senior Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl