Culture Eats Strategy During Lunch

Apr 24, 2018

If you’ve been in one of Braithwaite’s Story Bootcamp™ sessions, you’ve likely seen the famous quote from the esteemed management consultant Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” While some debate the exact line and whether Drucker actually said it, he certainly stood behind its meaning—even the best business strategy won’t work if it’s not supported by and compatible with a strong company culture.

For evidence of this theory in action, look no further than your NBA Eastern Conference No. 3-seed and first-round series-leading Philadelphia 76ers.

Just this week, ESPN released a fascinating feature story by Kevin Arnovitz, which details the unique team culture head coach Brett Brown and the rest of the Sixers staff have created. Rather than forcing an artificial culture on the team through motivational posters, management meetings and corporate memos, the Sixers instead embraced the idea that each player is unique and has their own story to tell. Once each week during lunch, through a combination of PowerPoint presentations, 4-foot bumblebee pythons, and escargot tastings, the team let each player share their personality and, in effect, wrote the story of the 2017-18 Philadelphia 76ers.

Though it always seems like winning breeds culture and not the other way around—try finding a failing company lauded for its vision and values—the 76ers actually built the foundation for this culture over the four-year span where they lost 253 games and won only 75. During that time, the team was ridiculed nationally for its controversial, process-based strategy of building a team. The Sixers were developing a culture of losing, they said.

In reality, the Sixers were quietly building a championship mindset through a culture of appreciation for each other’s differences. Now in the playoffs for the first time since 2012, the 76ers are using that winning culture to become the most promising, exciting, tight-knit teams in the NBA.

Long Story Short: There is no strategy without a strong culture to support it. The trick is to be patient, take the time to discover your company identity, and trust the process. #HereTheyCome

This article also appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. It was written by Joe McIntyre.

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