At the Intersection of Culture & Strategy
Culture: The traditions, habits, and behaviors of a group or organization
Strategy: A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
How many times have you heard the words culture and strategy thrown around in the last few months? We throw these words around a lot in a corporate setting, without giving a lot of thought to their true meaning. In fact, you have probably heard Peter Drucker’s quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” in a presentation or on a website. I understand and agree with his general premise, that ignoring the existing traditions, habits and behaviors of a group can ultimately undermine or deter any strategy you develop. The successful execution of a strategy requires a supporting and aligned culture.
However, I’d also argue that culture needs strategy too. A group with shared values and ideals whose traditions, habits, and behaviors are healthy will need direction, and a plan. In fact, a healthy cultured group would likely demand it, in some form. The two are symbiotic, and a team or organization that has a healthy culture + a strong supported strategy can experience a deep level of alignment and productivity.
I am a huge fan of agile values and principles, and in my mind, they look a little like this:
This is why I love the line, “At the intersection of culture and strategy”. Being agilists really requires that we have a full understanding of both, and how agility is impacting (and impacted by) both. We are human beings, doing human work -- but it IS work. We are in business to make money, make a difference, or a bit of both. Often, the word culture is perceived as “too fluffy”, and all about hugs and ping pong tables. I think in recent years though, organizational leadership has come to understand how crucial it is to understand, evaluate, and be intentional about what we do in that intersection.
That’s where agility comes in. When I read the Agile Manifesto, two things stand out: People and Business. The movement was a resistance to the notion that building software was akin to the manufacturing process: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
People change. Business changes. Together, they need to be both flexible, and in sync. The manifesto reminds us that the two are inextricably linked. Individuals and Interactions (People). Working Software (Business). Customer Collaboration (Both!). Responding to Change. (Both!).
The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually - to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul - harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life. -Gary Zukav
So how do we get there? When I work with organizations and teams, I like to start with their purpose. What is their mission? Do they have a defined set of core values? Is everyone aligned around those two things? Those are foundational to culture, strategy, AND ultimately to organizational agility. It’s not a silver bullet, but it gets us moving in the same direction. From there, we can develop a supporting strategy AND culture, and continually evolve both.
Agile values and principles (and the resulting movement they inspired) are focused on creating human-centric and human-respectful cultures. We aim to create cultures that bring out the best in us and our teams, and leverage those cultures to support dynamic and evolving strategies toward our goals.