Culture eats strategy for breakfast

"Business was created by humans, not the other way around"

Nikki Gatenby | Founder, Author & Coach | Superengaged | Better Business On Purpose

How would you explain what “culture eats strategy for breakfast” means?


Culture eats strategy for breakfast, that infamous phrase attributed to Peter Drucker is in itself a really interesting concept, and one that I believe over time has been interpreted and popularised in a multitude of ways - and not all perhaps as it was first intended.

In essence, it’s widely and broadly used in a sense that suggests for many that culture is more important than strategy when it comes to running and leading a business.

There is no doubt…and I mean none at all…that a business will not thrive without a healthy culture. Toxic cultures and workplaces that encourage all the wrong types of behaviours will not only struggle to retain and attract good people, they will also stifle growth through a lack of engagement and ‘care’ for the job they are doing and the company that they are doing it in.

What do you think about this ‘advice’?


With the above in mind however, my belief is that an organisation’s ‘culture credit’ will only last so long, and with all the best will in the world, as a business strives to grow and evolve, a fantastic culture will only get you so far.

People need purpose. They need clarity, they need a clear vision and direction, they need some form of structure (not necessarily just talking org structure here) and an understanding of where a business is heading (and why!) - and more than that, they need to believe in and be bought into the strategy and subsequent plan that will get them there.

So for me culture and strategy must eat breakfast together side by side.

Would you give this advice to other people?


I’d give people a flavour of the original ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ advice. Culture will only get you so far….equally so will strategy. You can’t have one without the other, and so neither one must eat each other for breakfast, they must as I said above eat breakfast together, side by side.

What is the Nikki Gatenby definition of culture?


It’s the language and behaviours of how things get done (or not), amongst a group of people.

How do you define what vision, mission and strategy is and the differences between them?


We need to think about our definitions.

Mission, Vision and Strategy get interchanged on a regular basis. I’d argue that Mission is Strategy and it helps to add Purpose in here. This isn’t a purpose-yawn moment…go with me:

Purpose: The difference you are trying to make in the world
Mission: The core strategy that must be undertaken to fulfil that purpose
Vision: A vivid, imaginative view of how the world will look once your purpose has been largely realised

And if the purpose bit is still not sitting right – take a note from Nile Rogers who said “music without soul is just noise”, therefore in my mind, business without purpose is just admin.

How we think about what we do every day profoundly impacts the way we feel about it?
How does this

Nikki Gatenby's bio

Nikki Gatenby an agency specialist non-exec director and cognitive behavioural coach. She helps agency founders successfully grow their agencies - and helps them avoid major issues. Nikki also works with CEOs and MDs to set their strategy and coaching the leadership team to deliver the strategy.

After taking her exit from her last agency in 2019, Nikki wrote two books on transforming business performance by putting people and purpose on a par with profit.

Superengaged was a bestseller in 2018.

Better Business on Purpose comes out later this year, sign up for your sneak peek!

Humble promo of Nikki Gatenby and Superengaged

OK, if you haven't read Superengaged and you care about company culture - well then this should be top of your list. Nikki has achieved something quite special at the agency Propellernet. Including the introduction of the "Dream Machine".

She also has a new book being released soon: Better Business on Purposesign up for a sneak preview!

Lastly, Nikki is an incredible coach. If you're looking to be a better leader in your agency, then get Nikki to help you out.

Daniel (Polymensa founder)

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"It's an especially useful caution for outsiders with a big change agenda"

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Mike Maynard
CEO @ Napier B2B

"Clearly it's good advice, but not as simple"

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