Brunch with Culture and Strategy

Why management is fucked and why this fuckedness is necessary for rebirth


I have recently been hearing the Peter Drucker quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” perhaps because it is a chapter in Google HR chief Laszlo Bock’s 2015-released Work Rules. So in an attempt to ease any early morning cannibalistic rift, I invited both Culture and Strategy for brunch. Culture arrived slightly late, citing the rain. Strategy looked stern. Overall the conversation was civil. Here’s what we talked about.

1.

The best way to serve your customers is to treat your people well. If your manner of gaining and serving customers is to treat your people like shit, then it does not matter that you have 56 percent growth, receive 12 awards every year, or win the largest accounts. The end does not justify the means, when it comes to culture.

2.

Do you wonder why important things with a long-term impact could never get done? That broken purchasing process, that long-overdue website redesign, that performance dashboard, that bug that makes you enter nine fields and make three clicks instead of one? I offer two reasons.

You may have created an environment that bets all-in on the day-to-day and treats everything with a post-three week impact and more than two person-days’ effort as crap. “Those are not as important as what the salespeople need now. They bring in the paycheck.” You’ve perpetuated a culture where today’s firefighting is more important than next year’s fire prevention. You stupid, stupid delusional pseudo-leader wannabe.

The other reason is this: more than treating what your people love to do like shit, you treat them like shit. So even if they had the expertise and opportunity to fix important long-term stuff for your organization, they have no willingness to do it. “Why do more than what’s required today for someone who loathes me and whom I loathe back?” Minimum passable effort is what you’d get from people you’ve treated with less than minimum passable dignity. If you want output with long-term value, you treat — no, you genuinely view — people with the respect that people who can generate long-term value deserve.

3.

At this point, Strategy stirs in his rattan chair at the picturesque al fresco breakfast place. He throws his napkin on the table. He says he’s tired of all the shit-brained management novices who ill-represent him as all about choosing 100 things to do to achieve x percent growth or y points of increase in earnings per share. He says he wants to clear his name to be about choosing the three things (out of 100 possible) to achieve goals loftier than revenue or EPS. What are those loftier goals?

All of a sudden, Culture reached out for Strategy’s arm and ate his head. I got the check, paid, and calmly walked the hell out of there. This world is fucked, I sincerely believe.