Culture eats strategy for lunch – Part 1

During my Ph. D track I noticed on a professor’s door a sticker that read, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”  Something about that saying struck me as both truthful and possibly a bit hyperbolic. How can one universally say that strategy is not more important than organizational culture? How can we be sure that tactical implementation is paramount over a good strategy? What makes a culture? If this saying is remotely true, what makes it so?

After some further reflection on this questions over the last few years, I have come to the powerful conclusion that an individual’s fit within an organizational culture may be the single most impactful characteristic that dictates their ultimate professional success of failure. In my job as a Professor, I mentor many students who are getting ready to enter the job scene for the first time. One of the first things I coach them on is one of the candid realities of the workplace – by the time sleep is accounted for, you will actually spend more time with you co-workers and peers than your friends and family. This means that if the overall work culture is fundamentally out of alignment with your personal values and mores you will never maximize your innate abilities. Another way of stating this is, you can find the perfect job in terms of tactical skills sets, but if the overall organization is not a healthy place to work, the day in day out job responsibilities become a moot point.

In college and life we do a good job training and teaching people valuable hard and soft skills sets that are required in the modern work place; MSFT word and excel, congeniality, effective writing, team player etc., but we often do not coach people on the higher level cognition needed to recognize effective organizational fit ahead of time.

The sad irony is that spending just a little more time doing some due diligence on the front end regarding a potential employer could really mitigate some poor professional decisions ahead of time. I would simply suggest that when job prospecting you take the time to not only read the organizations mission and value statements, but dig a little deeper. Look within your network of people on Facebook and Linkedin and see if they have or currently work at that organization. Seek out people who might have some hands-on experience in that organization. A few simple phone calls, FB messages or texts could save you a world of hurt.

In my next blog post I will share some of my personal experiences with corporate culture and how it can lead to job hopping. 

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