The Truth About Corporate Culture

A shared set of values and beliefs is supposed to be the key to business success. Is it?

Written by James Cowan

Mark Fields, the president of Ford, once hung a large sheet of paper in a boardroom where he was planning a major overhaul of the car company. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” it read.

Those five words have become the go-to aphorism for tech execs and business columnists seeking to explain the success or failure of a particular enterprise. The phrase asserts that regardless of how brilliant its products, no company will flourish if its employees don’t embrace a communal set of values and behaviours.

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It’s a lovely notion, but it ignores the companies that succeed without regard to employee morale or engagement. Dish Network, a U.S. satellite-TV provider, saw 37% growth in its stock price in 2012—the year it was ranked the worst place to work in the United States by the online site 24/7 Wall St. Employees complained of “mandatory overtime” and no holidays. While Amazon is often lauded for its business tactics, its median employee tenure is one year. And when ride-sharing service Uber faced scandals last fall—including an executive openly mulling spying on journalists—some questioned whether the startup would survive its dysfunctional culture. Yet Uber is now valued at US$40 billion, with the criticism doing little to stall its growth.

A strong culture undoubtedly bolsters a good strategy, but a great idea can survive in a hostile environment.

This article is from the Business B.S. Special Report in the March 2015 issue of Canadian BusinessSubscribe now!


Do you agree that strategy is more important than culture? Share your thoughts using the comments section below.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com