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21 February, 2011 / Karl Maier

Culture versus Strategy

Can a strategy be successful if the culture does not support the strategy?

If a leader advances a strategy that conflicts with the culture of a company, which will win?

The answer is typically in the shared core values of the company.  Is the new strategy in line with the values?  If so, then the strategy is primarily setting a new goal or vision.  In this case the strategy has a chance of success.  The new strategy must still overcome the inertia of the status quo.  The success of overcoming the inertia is likely to depend on the sense of urgency and magnitude of the change.  But the strategy may succeed in changing the culture such as in a turnaround situation.

On the other hand, if the strategy conflicts with the shared core values of the company, a change in strategy is very likely to fail.  The core values of the people are very unlikely to change.   The only way the culture is likely to change in this situation is to replace the majority of the people.  Very few companies can afford such a huge change in personnel and remain in business.

A successful strategy is going to align with the shared core values of the company.  In some cases, the vision may change, but the values rarely do.

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