"Culture eats strategy for breakfast"

Sara Fernandez19 May 2014Inside Hub Ventures

Some of you may have come across this saying (admittedly not an everyday one in general life, but certainly popular in the management and corporate circles) from Peter Drucker.

I was reminded about it by Nick Temple’s blog this week, which looks at the relationship between culture and innovation. In short:

“So we are really talking about culture here: that people within an organisation feel the ability to spot, develop and pursue opportunities (in line with the mission), to take and be comfortable with risk (and reward), to be creative and problem-solve, to be flexible and responsive in their approach.”

This is something that we discussed at length at the last Team Day - we want to make sure everyone in the team feels that they are supported to come up with new ideas and get the resources to make them happen.

Across all of our work with students and across Hub Ventures we are constantly developing new innovations, whether it is acquiring a new cafe in East Oxford, or developing a new technology programme. This is often opportunistic (it is healthy to jump at opportunities now and then!) but always aligned with our vision. The only reason we can do this in a way that is not (negatively) disruptive to the organisation, is because we have the culture to support this. The team is ambitious, we want to be sustainable in the long-term, constantly tweaking and improving - see where this is going? As always, it is all about our values.

We are not the only organisation out there to be values-obsessed, although all of the relatively famous examples tend to be from the private sector, often US based: Google, South West Airlines, Zappos. All very successful companies who have had their eureka moment and realised ‘it’s the culture, stupid!’:

“At Zappos.com, from the beginning culture has always been the most important and to this day is the number one priority in the company. And our whole belief is that if we get the culture right then most of the other stuff like delivering great service or building a long-term enduring brand will happen naturally after it.”

The idea is that nowadays organisations need to actively manage their strategy, operations, marketing, etc, but also their culture, which is probably more important than anything else. The conclusion that follows is that culture can’t be managed by a member of management team or determined through a written report. It’s everyone’s responsibility in the organisation to build on the existing culture, follow our values and continue to use them to guide are decisions and behaviour. Do take the time to think about how you could be more effectively living and communicating these values and discuss with your teams next week and if you are part of the Student Hubs team, don’t forget to fill in our values survey to help decide how we are doing.

What does success look like? When our customers at TSK, our host organisations at Worthwhile, our students and all our partners 'get’ our values and understand how they deliver value to them. Let’s make it happen.

Author: Sara Fernandez

Sara is the Executive Director of Student Hubs, supporting the development and growth of our Hubs and Programmes across the network and working to increase the impact of our work. Alongside her work at Student Hubs, Sara is studying for a part-time degree in Education and is particularly interested in citizenship education. She is also a trustee for Student Minds. In her spare time Sara can be found embracing her inner Spaniard and growing vegetables.