Culture eats strategy for breakfast and technology for lunch and everything else for dinner

Bill Aulent from MIT states that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast and technology for lunch and everything else for dinner“ – the trouble is it still leaves everyone hungry!

Organisations spend time on developing strategies – but then face problems implementing these strategies because the culture of their organisation is often strongly resistant and refuses to accept the change.  Any company disconnecting these two elements are putting their success at risk.

Culture (in practical terms) is about behaviours, thoughts and feelings, so these will determine how and if a strategy is implemented. Culture is often subliminal, so in order to get things done, it’s often useful to think about culture as the behaviours you would observe (when none of the managers are present).

To change the culture you need to engage the Hearts and Minds of your workforce. In essence, employees must ‘want to do it’ and see it as something that’s normal for them to do.  That empowers the employee to feel it’s their problem to solve…but also their solution…the result…they do it!

But as you can guess, helping organisations change their cultural DNA isn’t easy…but a focus on business, value and employee focused change programmes, has worked for our clients.

Here’s why. We create the environment to open up the conversation – which is always a key step…without open discussion, confusion and mistrust are likely to stop you in your tracks before you’ve started. Once dialogue and trust are established, it’s possible to then put forward problems and, through independent facilitation, allow the people presenting the problem to present possible solutions.

This is the first step towards nurturing a culture that takes ownership and initiative to solve business challenges.  It evolves the management role from one of authority to demonstrating trust, empowerment, support and facilitation.

By repeating this process through the change programme, people come forward with their individual ideas and are empowered and therefore passionate about taking them forward - even after the change programme has finished. They become the champion and remain enthusiastic to continue to develop new ideas and solve business problems as part of ‘what we do around here’!

Here’s an example of how it works in practice. CGI worked with one client who needed to change their strategy and become more innovative. Staff were used to keeping the operation running, complying and therefore not being innovative. The problem with that was the company was falling behind its competitors – just keeping the lights on was no longer viable for long term success.

To change this we delivered a hearts and minds change programme to fix business challenges by encouraging the employees to innovate, and bring that into the solutions the developed to the business issues.  As well as encouraging the employees to see and do things differently, it was also crucial to change the business leader’s mind-sets…and to give them the tools to do so. This delivered a joined up employee and leadership approach to fixing problems, and helped them to achieve 3 key goals; improved customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and enabled them to be better organised to win new business.

The key to success with in changing culture can be broken down into a few simple behaviours:

  • Recognising the cultural importance of trusting employees with solving problems
  • Knowing when to step back from fixing the problem yourself
  • Accepting your role as a facilitator, not a manager
  • Ensuring all the right people are connected and are having open conversations
  • Focusing on the end results, letting go of the ‘how and when’

Culture is one of the strongest forces in any organisation. It can be a make or break factor.  But as the opening quote reminds us…culture is the hardest thing to change…and can be costly to implement without addressing some of the issues I’ve discussed above. If you need help to make sure your organisation makes the changes it needs to, contact Angela Rixon on 077789 687738 or

Angela Rixon is Head of Digital Employee Experience at CGI.

About this author

Picture of Angela Rixon

Angela Rixon

Director of Digital Employee Experience

Angela leads the Digital Employee Experience Practice at CGI. Digital Employee Experience drives operational and productivity efficiency and effectiveness through a range of innovative workforce solutions. This includes Innovative robotic process automation to drive productivity, cost savings and customer experience Enabling workforce ...

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