Culture eats strategy for breakfast: navigating the challenges of enterprise transformation

Juan Miguel Pérez

Enterprise transformation refers to any complex or fundamental change that impacts the way an organisation operates. In the past few years, virtually all large enterprises, particularly industrial ones, have embarked on deep, comprehensive, strategic transformations. There is a particular focus on two main areas: digitalisation and sustainability. Both of these have become priorities for any enterprise that expects to stay relevant over the next 5 to 10 years. In order to compete with market insurgents and adapt to the new expectations of customers and consumers, companies have been forced to design a clear strategy for their digital and sustainability transformations.

However, strategy is not nearly enough. As Peter Drucker, the Austrian-American management consultant and educator, once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Whether it is regarding digitalisation, sustainability, or any other corporate initiative, an enterprise’s transformation strategy is decided at a Board or C-level. Culture, however, it is not so much a decision as it is the set of beliefs and behaviours that determines how the company is run and how employees handle business transactions. No matter what the strategic decisions are, company culture will always prevail. This is why any strategic enterprise transformation needs to go hand in hand with an evolution of the company’s culture.

The big question is, how do we enact cultural change in a large organisation? Traditionally, culture fell under the responsibilities of the HR department; however, with time, it has increasingly become a CEO concern. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, wrote “the CEO is the curator of an organization’s culture”. CEOs must be able to both understand the current culture and cultivate the desired one by establishing the right environment. Upon doing so, it will also be the CEO’s job to guarantee that their vision of company culture is in sync with their employees. Company culture must also be aligned with the marketplace and the perception of the company brand by customers and consumers. Only by understanding and aligning all three of these elements (CEO’s vision, employee behaviour and market perception) will an organisation succeed in enacting cultural change.  

As a CEO of a technology startup myself, I must admit that this is not a challenge reserved just for large organisations. Aligning our strategy with our culture is one of my top priorities and I believe that the cohesion we have achieved in this regard at Finboot is one of our best attributes. However, our work does not end there. By providing deeply transformational solutions to our customers as we help them to digitise their value chains and build more sustainable and resilient business processes, we must make sure that we can act as a driver in their enterprise transformation. More than technology or services providers, we see ourselves as enablers of change and progress. Part of our job is to guarantee that we deliver value for our customers across the entire company, from the strategic advantages our technology can deliver at a corporate level, to the operational advantages that we bring to the day-to-day work.

As more companies embark on enterprise transformation, I hope that they do so with the understanding that aligning strategy and culture is a fundamental key to success.