Culture – Strategy – Action

Culture Eat Strategy for Breakfast

Everybody wants to be successful. Each of us who start a venture or join an organisation or pursue a cause; we want to see success. What does success mean? In most organisation whatever is seen as a success; results in progress, esteem, greater opportunities and more income.

Since each organisation has its metrics of success, it all comes back to who defines it. Every organisation has a success story. The success story talks about how the organisation came to be what it is. For some, it was because the founders saw opportunities where none other saw any. For some, it is the large accounts that the company/founders were able to bring in. And for others still, it is the story of making the customer happy no matter what the costs were. The narrative of how success was found differ for different organisations.

Culture helps define these metrics of success.

Whether or not you specify this in your HR policies, it becomes the things that team members aspire for. It is the way success gets defined in an organisation.

Bill Gates sold an Operating System that he had not even made – to IBM. He spent the next 2 months coding the OS that he had promised. This is part of the lore of Microsoft. If you look at the success of the company in the past and its rejuvenation today it has always been a company that sells to other enterprises. Even though the mobile shift passed the company by, they could do little because the internal culture was not to focus on consumers.

One of the biggest misunderstandings is that culture leads to success. The truth is – Success leads to culture. Success creates the narrative which creates the culture. Great organisations control this narrative very well. Their stories are powerful and alter how their employees see them.

This phrase ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ was first mentioned by Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and now a successful venture capitalist. You cannot hire a new CEO and expect them to make a strategy presentation which will change the direction of the company. It has to begin by changing culture which is the product of changing the success story within the company.

Think narrative before you think strategy.

Action eats policy for lunch

Often time, companies also feel the need to change the way things are operating within. If a behaviour has to be altered, policies are put in place to act otherwise. How the leadership acts and the actions that are taken matter far more than a hundred-page policy that any consulting team can put together to explain how things should be. 

Action is seen, it is felt and is far more real to the people within an organisation that reams of policies. Action is now, its consequences are also now. There is nothing more powerful than that.

When startups grow and founders want discipline, most often they will put together 10s of pages of policies and expect things to change overnight. Act on it. Live it yourselves everyday first before expecting others to follow the same. Action will speak louder than any document would.

Figure out the narrative within the organisation and act. This will solve most of the issues within the organisation.

General Thinking

Sensibility, Intuition and Good Judgement

There is a expression that I simply hate: counter-intuitive. Counter-intuitive implies that something is contrary to intuition, but in most cases people describe things that are counter-sensibility as counter-intuitive. When someone says something is counter-intuitive, I just assume that they have no clue what intuition is. Read my previous blog about ‘Intuition‘ if you wish to know what I think intuition is.


So what is sensibility? According to me sensibility is whatever convention teaches us. Sensibility tells us that if you throw a log of wood up, it is going to fall on your face or if you say something unflattering to someone, they might get pissed off. It is what you come to expect based on the norms that you are used to.

Is there a situation where, when a log of wood is thrown up, it goes up and does not fall down? Under water?

Saying something unflattering to someone might actually cause them to do what they must.

The norms that we are used to, make us think sensibly. They do not allow us think intuitively.


Intuition can be counter-sensibility. It is born out of a great deal of observation and assimilation by the sub-conscious which is hard to define or justify.

“This is going to be by the most appreciate book.” You know intuitively that this sentence is wrong. What is wrong? Gerund? Infinitive? Article? Past participle? I am sure you can’t put a finger on the rule that I am flouting but you know it is wrong and you know what to do to correct it.

Observation and assimilation causes you to know this. Most of the things that we learn are like this. In fact we hardly learn anything consciously.

Intuition is hence extremely hard to explain to another person. It usually flies in the face of sensibility. You feel, ‘I should probably tell this person something unflattering in order to push him to achieve his potential’. How do you know if you will get the reaction which you expect or not? Intuition lets you know.

Its just impossible to explain why.

Intuition at first glance looks stupid.

Good Judgement

Given that most times intuition is going to be hard to explain, justify or defend; it is important to have good judgement.

Let us say, you are running a startup and have a key employee who is based out of the client’s location. This person has had a chance to observe things that you might not have. This observation would contribute towards building an intuition that you would not have. Any call that this person makes on the basis on their intuition is going to be hard to explain and may fly in the face of sensibility.

As a teacher, parent, mentor or leader one of the most important things you can hope to lend to anyone is good judgement. Even if the decision taken does not seem sensible, if its based on good judgement, you can rest assured about the decision. It may work out favourably or not, but the basis would be sound.

So where does this good judgement come from?


All judgements are based on the value system that a person follows. Providing great values is the best way of ensuring good judgement.

Values are extremely important; whether you are the head of a team, a business or a family. Articulating it clearly is even more important.

Strong values breed a way of thinking within an organisation. It develops a culture over a period of time where there are certain things that are appreciated more than others. It also begins to define the incentives within the organisation to encourage a particular nature of behaviour and decision making.

Values breed culture.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Strategy is just an approach and the approach changes all the time.

Culture determines incentives, if the right things are incentivised the outcome will always be good in the long term.