Culture eats strategy for breakfast (lunch & dinner)

Culture eats strategy for breakfast – what it really means? Almost thirty years ago today I started life as a trainee in the London recruitment industry.  On the first morning my Manager had instructed me to arrive thirty minutes early as the ‘training’ would begin.  Suited and booted, notepad and pen in hand I eagerly awaited the training to commence. At 8.30am the office doors flung open and in marched my Manager.  ‘’The training starts now’’ she bellowed across the busy office… evoking fear into me, the new recruit and the team of consultants, pointing to a spare desk and a solitary phone, she said ‘’that’s the strategy, get on the phone and make sales calls’’.

A flawed strategy perhaps? One you might argue damaging to the development of people perhaps? But as my career developed, and the years passed by I realized that the ‘strategy’ of ‘doing things’ and making ‘stuff happen’ becomes your culture if nurtured in the right way.

Many years later sitting in my own office, managing a team of recruiters, overlooking a rain sodden Oxford Street, I typed (yes we still had type writers in those days) ‘’WE HAVE A STRATEGIC PLAN AND CULTURE – ITS CALLED DOING THINGS’’.  In my mind I run a ‘making stuff’ happen business always focused on the vision and the culture of making it happen

What does culture eat strategy for breakfast really mean?

The quote means that no matter how strong your strategy is, the execution of your plan can be held back by team members who don’t or won’t share the company culture.

If your team isn’t passionate about your companies’ vision, they won’t be excited about executing the plan and the strategy stands no chance.  Company culture happens whether you work at it or not, it represents the core founders’ basic beliefs.

Culture is organic and ever changing and are the stories that we tell to each other about ourselves. 

Culture is the way the company operates and behaves towards fulfilling its’ goals but also includes the behavior and core values of each employee.

While strategy defines direction and focus, culture is the habitat in which strategy lives or dies.

Develop a solid vision

Everyone in the organization needs to know where the company is going and how their work contributes to the business vision. If your organisation has no clear vision, no defined values, and no sense of direction, you’re nurturing inadequate culture.

Celebrate small successes

Everyone will adopt a culture that makes individuals feel enthusiastic about goals if  they believe that all  short term wins matter because they lead to the long term achievement of your longer term vision.

Develop SOP’s

Develop a set of minimum standards of performance; these are a set of standards and behaviours that help us to define culture and values. Job descriptions describe what is to be done, SOP’s describe how well it is to be done.

Ongoing training and development – a ‘learning organisation’

To fully develop itself an organization should have career paths and training and development programmes which match the companys’ goals and culture.

Vicki Steward is a specialist recruitment management consultant and trainer; please reach out to her for training and workshops on strategy, vision and culture and sales development training programmes on: Telephone: +44 7970 408 449 / Email:

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