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Which Would You Rather Be? Culture or Strategy?


Are you more of a “button down” or a “tie-dye” kind of person?

I heard a quote this week… “Culture eats strategy for lunch”.  Peter Drucker is the person given credit for this quote; a well-respected voice about business.  As often happens, short sound bites don’t always convey the whole meaning.  Taken at face value, one could think there is actually a tradeoff between culture and strategy.  After reading up on some of Drucker’s ideas and using my own career experiences, I am not sure that he meant culture trumps strategy.

Culture is all about how an organization behaves. Strategy is all about how an organization uses it’s resources to compete.  You can have a great strategy that is poorly executed, usually because the culture cannot/does not behave in a way that can execute the strategy.  Or, the cultural behavior dictates a strategy that focuses on sustaining a culture, not on creating a competitive advantage.

Actually, I believe you need both.  A healthy company holds both in balance. Strategy must take into account the culture and how mature the culture needs to be to execute the strategy. And, the culture must actively work to provide flexibility and awareness to support a competitive strategic direction.  A “culture will eat strategy for lunch” if the strategy is developed in a vacuum and with no consideration for how an organization behaves.

As leaders in manufacturing operations, our task is to cultivate and mature our culture to be flexible and “quick to change” in order to meet whatever competitive challenge faces us.   Things like cross-training, seamless communication, and accountability are just some of the components we have to actively manage daily.  Please know that you have an active part in your site’s ability to deliver your business strategy.

It is about managing your culture as much as it is about executing your daily goals.  As we start the new year, how are you balancing strategy and culture? I invite you to comment below and start the conversation.

Be intentional,

It’s never the first question that will get you. It’s the third or fourth one.


This is the time of the year one questions why I don’t live in Florida…

The Third Lever in our series on Culture — questions

For years, my husband has told anyone who works with me that it’s never the first question. It’s always the third or fourth one that will get you. (Spoiler alert: I love questions.)

I know not many people do, but I do. I love asking them, lots of them. I love getting questions (as long as people are willing to really listen to my answer, give me time to think about the answer and want an honest answer in return). I love where questions take you – questions generate creative new ideas, challenge the way we think, stretch our belief system, and allow us a greater understanding of topics and people. Mostly, I love how much you can tell about a person based on the questions they ask, the questions they don’t ask and how well they listen to the answer.

I know most people hate questions. My friends and family have informed me of this many times. (Yes, they get the brunt of my many questions).  Most people hate change – and questions are the catalyst for change. Questions bring things to the surface. Questions cause us to think about stuff differently – in ways that drive creative innovation. And that is why I believe “questions” are a contributor to what kind of business culture a company may have.

People talk about a culture of fear, or a closed culture, or a culture of apathy – none of these cultures support “asking questions”. None of them. So if you don’t see questions being asked – ponder on why. Are people afraid that they will be dismissed? Are people afraid they will get asked a question back and don’t want to be exposed?  Do people just not care?

If you talk about a culture of openness, a culture one feels safe, a culture of engagement – all these cultures support “asking questions”. Lots of questions.  You will see, feel, hear questions being asked all the time, everywhere, at all levels. They will be encouraged. We are fast to say “there are no dumb questions” – but do we act that way after we hear the question?

I challenge each of you – ask more questions and listen to the answers and ask some more questions. You will learn more and be able to make better and better improvements.

Be intentional

5 Ideas to Tame Unruly Electronic Communication Behavior


Is your prose filled with typos? Spellcheck is FREE. Use it.

We have been talking about culture and its influencers. The next one I would like to explore is “electronic communication”.

While I’m sure there are written “rules of engagement” for smart phone usage somewhere on the internet, there are some behaviors that seem to jump to the top of my list of “not-to-do” because they feel somewhat disrespectful.

Of course, we will not all agree on what warrants “disrespect” and we will each have different opinions from my list below. So I hope you take the time to add a few pet peeves of your own in the comment section.

The point of my list is to hopefully get you thinking — I only ask that you consider the impression the behavior gives or how it makes the other person feel as you use “electronic communication”.

Remember, this is all about culture and what drives culture – not efficiencies. It is about how we are treating others, the examples we are giving as leaders and how we are perceived by our teammates.

1. Fiddling on your smart phone at a meeting. Arrrgh!!

  • If you have not told people you are taking notes while they are talking (instead of using paper), they will assume you are not paying attention.
  • They can be put out since they prepared to present and you are not listening, why did they bother
  • They could assume you are not doing work, sending the impression that you are not dedicated
  • They could assume you are doing work, and that their work is not important. Thus, why should they care to engage
  • If you have told people you are taking notes – they will know that you value their input and the work they do
  • If you have to keep an eye on texts or emails – be respectful. Tell everyone that you are waiting for something – and apologize for the disruption. Their time is valuable also.

2. Answering the phone when someone is talking to you.

  • If you are waiting for an important call, or are in a job that requires immediately answering – be polite and tell people they may be interrupted
  • If people know that an important call is coming in, they will be more understanding
  • The person speaking to you believes they are should get your attention. You wouldn’t let just anyone walking by interrupt, why do you let the phone?
  • The great thing about phones is that they all have voicemail. Most (not all) but most phone calls can be handled right after your conversation with the person in front of you
  • If you are in a meeting and the phone rings, AND you have to take it – step out of the room. Staying in the room just disrupts everyone

3. Texting is a great, fast way to tell someone something – better than a phone call as it is quick and easily readable in meetings – if done quietly and respectfully

4. Emails are great for basic information sharing – they are not great for complex discussions. Face to face are the best.

  • Don’t copy the “world”, but do copy anyone that needs to know the basic information. You need to be intentional on “who”
  • Use emails for “summing” up conversations or minutes from meetings – they can be great historical documents

5. Whether texting, emailing, twittering or other – remember it is still the written word. There is no body language or voice inflection to give context. You have to use the right words and enough of them for clarity.

Culture is all about people’s behaviors. Behavior is driven by what people think about each other. How they communicate with each other can change cultural norms for the better or for the worse. Electronic communication, used correctly, can help create healthy business cultures. When in doubt, the rule of thumb should be:

  • Show respect to those around you when using your electronic devices.
  • Be intentional with the communication you do over the device.
  • When possible, communicate in-person complex issues.

Be intentional,

10 Jedi Knight techniques to save your meeting


If this guy invited you to his meeting, I think it prudent to ask for the expected outcome in advance. Just saying…

Wow – my informal survey shows there’s a lot of strong opinions about meetings. Everyone’s been to “that meeting” organized by “that guy/gal”. There is a “force” and it isn’t with you. It’s the kind of meeting where you leave with less information than you had walking in the door.

If only you could get the last hour of your life back you think to yourself. There is a way. In fact, based on your input, I would propose there are 10 ways. 10 logical approaches to improve your meetings and help influence your immediate culture (i.e., respect, communication, team work, execution, to name a few). They are almost too logical, simple even, yet you don’t have to be a Jedi Knight to do start doing them.

  1. Before organizing a meeting – determine what you want from the meeting (information collected, information given, discussion/work, other). If you do not know what you want from the meeting, no one else will either
  2. Invite only those that are necessary to meet the objective of the meeting – less can be more
  3. Schedule meetings in open calendar spaces (Do not create intentional conflicts!). If you have to schedule over something, let the person with the conflict know why you had to create the conflict AND why they are needed in your meeting over another meeting
  4. Start the meeting with the purpose/objective – end the meeting with a summary indicating if the objective was met and what the next steps are
  5. If you do not think you need to go to a meeting, ask the organizer why you were invited. If there is not a good reason, decline to go
  6. If you can’t make a meeting, let the organizer know you can’t make it and why. Or, send a representative
  7. In the Outlook meeting notice: include an agenda and the expectation of the meeting
  8. When you are seeking information in the meeting – give people a heads up so they can come prepared
  9. If it is a cross-functional formal meeting, put out meeting notes – especially if decisions were made, or actions were requested
  10. Realize any gathering of two people is a meeting. Meetings are not bad if true communication is made

Let me know if any of these work for you or if you have more suggestions.

kind regards,

Can You Name the Four Invisible Culture Influencers?

800lb communication gorilla

Can you identify the “800 pound gorilla” in your meeting nobody will discuss? (Maybe a simple banana will make it go away?)

Last week we talked about culture – and how we all are contributors to the culture we live in. How we contribute is influenced by the infrastructure we operate within.

Using the example of meeting structure, we looked at how the culture of safety was influenced. Some other things that could/do influence culture would be: communication tools, problem solving space, reporting / governance. Anything that influences our interactions with each other plays a part in our infrastructure. If you can identify key components, cultural shifts can be sparked by some basic simple changes. The hard part is tuning into what those things could be.

Of all the possible influencers, there are four invisible influencers on culture that I would like to explore over the next couple of weeks:

  • Meeting structures
  • Electronic communication
  • Questions
  • Bad news

I use the word “invisible” because they are usually ignored just like the proverbial “800 pound gorilla in the room”. They shape the interactions we have, and by shaping them they can either add or subtract from the culture. Most of the time, people put little thought into these interactions. We must understand why we do stuff and be intentional in what we do.

Over the next week please think about the following questions:

  • Why do we say we “have too many meetings?”
  • How come no one ever says, “I can’t wait for that meeting. I’m stoked. I want to get there early. Giddy-up.”
  • Do we understand why we have been invited to a meeting?
  • Do we go to meetings with expectations? Does the meeting organizer know our expectation? Do we know the meeting organizer’s expectation?
  • Meetings can be informational, discussion based, informal working meetings… Which kind of meetings do you think you have too many of?
  • How many meetings do you schedule vs attend?
  • If not in meetings, where do you think communication is taking place, or should take place?

I am going to be seeking some informal feedback over the next week. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Be intentional