Making Culture a Priority

Why company culture is more important than strategy.

When asked, "where do the smartest people work?" Today, most would say Google. Twenty years ago the answer would be NASA. Fifty years ago, IBM.

The reason people believe Google has the smartest people is because of an internal culture that requires a team's best work. The interview process is brutal to ensure everyone wants to be there and the resulting products are usually flawless. Management guru Peter Drucker famously said, "Culture eats strategy for lunch." As illustrated by Google, it appears he is correct.

Every company has a culture. It is either continuously cultivated like a beautiful lawn or left to grow like a weed. Either way, something is going to occur. Regardless of policy, marketing, or messaging, it is the culture that ultimately drives the brand. Because it is the employees that directly interact with the customer and each other.

One can spend millions directing the market to believe their product is the best only to see it wasted from mediocre or worse culture. If the team building the product does not care and the support staff is unconcerned then no amount of marketing budget will fix the brand’s reputation.

In contrast, a stellar product team coupled with concerned support staff will raise the brand’s reputation regardless of marketing spend. For them, the only question is how fast should we grow. Since excellent experiences lead to emotional brand connections.

There is a debate on the importance of culture over strategy. Since culture is a reflection of the team, it is directly related to the probability of implementing a successful strategy. This leads to the role of leadership and the question, "can an average team implement a winning strategy?"

Professional sports teams often prove that high-performers without good leadership cannot implement a winning strategy. In contrast, most companies with average employees fail at this too. Therefore, it is a combination of the quality of employees coupled with the level of leadership that makes or breaks strategy. Leading us back to culture.

Since culture is the lifeblood of the brand. It will either make the brand stronger or erode it away. Therefore, culture is the most important contributor to brand value. Dictating both the internal and external reputations of the company as detailed by Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list. Those on the list have a strong culture and a strong brand.

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