Planning a Merger or Leading Change? Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

There is a well-known saying by Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Applied to culture change this means whatever new strategies a leadership team creates will not succeed unless they are aligned with the current or desired culture.  How can you expect different results unless you focus consciously on changing the way people behave and interact with each other?

What sunk the Titanic was not above the waterline but below. The currents of emotions within an organization are at play beneath the surface. The saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” is an apt description of the power of cultural currents and their impact on strategic initiatives. How people do things, the management style, and the way decisions are made all play out here.

Beneath the surface is where habits and traditions exist that either engage and empower people or hold them back from wanting to adapt to change. Here is where attitudes and beliefs create resistance, and where values and behaviors are expressed and lived.

Planning a merger? Imagine the impact a Cultural Values Assessment can have on leading the integration of two organizations successfully.  What do you need to think about?

Leadership is recognizing how important engaged employees, collaboration, and the power of collective action are to achieving business results. The ability to implement new strategies depends on creating a shared vision and moving in a common direction.  Leaders need to believe and commit to the new strategies, and create internal cohesion on the leadership team.

What can prevent this from happening?  Resistance to change.  The “why” is not compelling enough, emotional fears block new behaviours due to uncertainty of the future, or not trusting the leader to keep their promises. Resistance to change is one of the biggest obstacles to leading successful change.

The most critical successful factor is the leadership team and their commitment to cultural transformation. There needs to be a shift in thinking and behavior from “me” to “we”. The “we” is the ability to create shared goals with shared values. Building trust and having a common approach to achieving the goals, and working together.

Imagine what this will mean to leaders who only know a command and control style of leadership. “My way or the highway!” It will require the development of a new leadership style—one that is more facilitative with a focus on building consensus and engaging participation. This can be a huge change in what leaders’ value, the way they behave, and how performance is measured.

The way of reaching your goals and realizing your strategies is embedded in how people act and interact with one another.  In other words, your culture. We all know Einstein’s theory of insanity:

“Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.”

Well here’s mine for cultural insanity:

“Expecting your employees to embrace new work habits and higher levels of collaboration between teams, while maintaining the same management style, organizational values, and behaviors.”

In the current global climate where increasing awareness and knowledge management is a competitive advantage, it would stand to reason that creating a conscious culture would be a management priority. This begs the question: “Are you investing in your culture or will you continue to have an unconscious, default culture?”

There are several reasons to invest in creating a conscious culture:

  • To become an employer of choice, and build a high performing workplace.
  • To increase employee engagement and retention.
  • To build a new culture after a merger or acquisition.

One way to create a conscious culture is to map and measure it by conducting a Cultural Values Assessment with the organization. I love this process because it includes everyone in the process of change which builds awareness, belongingness and commitment to cultural transformation. Whatever changes are required to align the culture with the new strategies will emerge in the process of reviewing the results with staff and the leaders.

A values assessment empowers leaders to map, measure and manage their cultural transformation for strategic success.

With love from Singapore.


We are very excited to share that my book, Conscious Culture, has been selected by the Government of Canada to be included in their recommended reading list of Reference Material for Ethics Advisors/Officers. What an honour!

Be sure to visit our Free Resource Center to get access to free e-books, worksheets and other valuable leadership development resources.

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To find out what your personal values are that empower you to higher performance and productivity, take a Free Personal Values Assessment.

To learn how well aligned you are with your workplace culture and what is impact performance, contact us for an Individual Values Assessment

To learn how to map, measure and manage the culture of your team or organization with our Culture Value Assessment for Teams and Organizations.

Leadership Speaker Joanna Barclay (2)Leadership Speaker Joanna Barclay (2)Leadership Speaker Joanna Barclay (2)Contact Us Joanna BarclayJoanna Barclay, Global Speaker, Published Author, Certified Professional Facilitator, and Leadership Consultant building high performing values-driven organizational culture.

With 30 years in business transformation working with organizations, Joanna’s passion lies in working with leaders, facilitating active participation in organizational change, developing resourceful teams and aligning strategic objectives. Her goal is to help organizations become high performing and values-driven, where people take ownership, build commitment and bridge communication gaps. As CEO of the Culture Leadership Group, she ensures successful transformation from concept through to implementation.

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