top of page
  • Writer's pictureLine

Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast; and Processes for Lunch and Dinner

It is well known that Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast, but if we elaborate; what does it eat for lunch and dinner?

In the last post, I discussed how culture eats strategy for breakfast, which is almost a well-accepted mantra in the business world. If I elaborate on that train of thought, then I believe we can almost certainly say that culture eats processes for lunch and dinner. Not only because processes are the consequence of a strategy, but also because we even look at the theoretic idea of a process versus the practical application of a process.

A strategy is an overarching plan for an organization on how to achieve its business goals. From the strategy, we derive tactical and operational plans and create processes to ensure that we achieve the goals of those plans as efficiently as possible.

When we look at the general idea of a workplace, we see that the overarching framework for a lot of workplaces is very similar. People travel to an assigned geographical location, have a time that they start and finish, have colleagues they work together with, and collectively they work towards an objective. Apart from that, professions differ in a lot of different ways. A police officer has a distinctively different set of tasks and responsibilities than a receptionist or software developer. Still, they have a lot in common too. One major thing that most jobs have in common is that they must deal with a lot of ambiguity. Whether you ask a police officer, receptionist, or software developer what they do on a daily basis, a lot of the answers boil down to a variant of “every day brings new unforeseen challenges”. It is hard to describe daily activities as they can vary immensely. No day is the same. Still, each one of those people knows what is expected of them in various situations. They know how to behave, even when the situation is new to them.

Structures & Processes

One way of dealing with this problem is to build processes that give people guidelines on how to act in different situations. These processes are good to show other organisations on how you intend to run your businesses. A prime example of this is ISO certifications. Huge amounts of documentation on how an organisation has set up its processes to be able to guarantee a certain level of standardization and quality. But even the detailed documentation of ISO certifications leaves room for interpretations and ambiguity and requires employees to be adaptive and creative. Do not get me wrong; ISO certification can be critical for organizations to improve both the quality and efficiency of their work. I merely argue that it is not the ultimate tool for guiding your employees in their everyday work. These are often sophisticated texts and process flows to guide individuals on how to deal with complex issues, hidden in manuals or quality support systems. Only a small proportion of people have read these manuals and to make matters worse the theory always slightly differs from reality. This means that we need to give our people more guidelines on how to act, even with ambiguity and ever-changing situations.

Culture to the rescue

This is where culture comes in. I have already extensively talked about how decision-making, culture, and empowerment are correlated here. But besides taking decisions, we also behave in a certain way as people. Our behaviours are shaped by motivations, that which drives us individually, and by what is acceptable in a group, that which drives us collectively. As I am not a psychologist, I will not speculate too much here on how individual motivations are shaped, but as an HR specialist, I can tell you that group behaviours form and are shaped by company culture. In other words, as a company we cannot determine the motivations of an individual person, however, we can influence the overarching culture of our organisation. The culture that we create will in turn influence group behaviours, which in turn will influence individual behaviours and decisions.

By creating the right culture, we can create the right group behaviours which will provide guidelines for individuals on how to behave and make decisions. This is the set of guidelines that help people make consistent decisions despite ambiguity and ever-changing situations. A good example of this is the cultural value of Facebook “Move fast and break things”, which got adopted by a lot of small fast-growing companies. Why? Simple: these companies often lack the structure to properly guide their employees through their decision-making process. A company value like that shows your employees that they should not be afraid and wait too long with making decisions. They are rather encouraged to rely on their own strengths and “Move fast and break things” instead of “Going slow and steady”.

Although I am not arguing that this is a good cultural value (Facebook had to roll back its original bold value), it is a clear guideline and message to people on how to act in unclear situations that demand adaptability and creativity. That is something that processes can never give your employees. Processes can only help you with the predictable, but culture can help you with the unpredictable – and remember it is the case for most jobs that “every day brings new unforeseen situations”.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page