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Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

Peter Drucker is credited with coining the phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and successful organizations have been striving to create a winning culture ever since. Here’s a great example of Google’s culture recounted by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg in How Google Works:

One Friday afternoon in May 2002, Larry Page (Google’s co-founder) was playing around on the Google site, typing in search terms and seeing what sort of results and ads he’d get back. He wasn’t happy with what he saw. Larry was horrified that the AdWords engine, which figured out which ads worked best with which queries, was occasionally subjecting our users to useless messages.

He printed out the pages containing the results he didn’t like, highlighted the offending ads, posted them on a bulletin board on the wall of the kitchen by the pool table, and wrote THESE ADS SUCK in big letters across the top. Then he went home.

By the time Larry arrived Monday morning the problem was fixed. And the kicker? The team that fixed the problem weren’t even on the ads team. They had just been in the office that Friday afternoon, seen Larry’s note, and understood that when your mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, then having ads (which are information) that suck (which isn’t useful) is a problem. So they fixed it over the weekend.

Every organization has a culture whether leadership creates it or not. As Drucker has been professing for almost half a century, leaders must define an intended culture, live it, breathe it, demonstrate it, and champion it or no strategy will be successful.

Leaders who empower their team with a defined, purposeful culture have more successful organizations.

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