Culture vs Strategy - CPA Edge

Either/Or Vs. Both/And

Why does it have to be one way or the other?  Why do we have to be so binary?

I’m a huge fan of Peter Drucker, and he is famous for many things.  But one of the quotes that he is famous for is “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  The jury is still out as to whether he said that, but suffice it to say, he said something like that.  My question is, why does it have to be either culture or strategy?  Can’t we have both culture and strategy?  Can’t killer culture be a part of our killer strategy? 

One of the biggest business killers can be our own self-limiting beliefs.  They typically start with “I’m not” - fill in the blank.  I’m not entrepreneurial enough.  I’m not ambitious enough.  Fortunately, we can deal with these internal beliefs.  However, external beliefs seem to be beyond our control, and one of the most potent external self-limiting beliefs is that it must be either/or.

Let me explain.  Business and strategy, to a large extent, is about trade-offs.  What we do and what we don’t do.  Whom we serve and whom we don’t serve.  Our technology choices, etc.  These either/or decisions can be difficult because they always involve a sacrifice of some sort, and we would prefer to keep our options open.  We keep our options open by not choosing and by doing nothing.  Ultimately indecision slows us down and makes life more painful. 

For the past one hundred years in the public accounting biz, we’ve lived with the linear equation of “Rate X Hour = Revenue.”  This equation leads us to believe that we can either have time or money, but we cannot have both.  But what if we could have both time and money?  Wouldn’t that motivate and encourage us to push past our previously perceived ceilings and alleviate our pain?  Through clearer vision, better leadership, a more robust strategy, greater value creation, higher levels of differentiation, and thoughtful pricing, I know we can.  It’s not as challenging as it sounds, and our business partners, employees, clients, spouses, and children will thank us.

Ironically, as I drove to my office to sit down and write this, the classic Van Halen hit, “Best of Both Worlds,” played on XM.

Where else is our either/or mentality having a negative impact?  How can we achieve the best of both worlds?