Any strategy is a commitment to what is going to happen. A strategy is built upon projections, assumptions and yet-to-be-proven premises. There's no way a strategy can leave everything up in the air and make a move toward a desired future. The role of improvising, that I explored on Friday, must be partial, not comprehensive. Sustainability requires lots of stability and continuity, as well as adaptability and spontaneity.
This underlying set of commitments makes strategies extremely edible to a variety of cultures that impact the success and survival of an enterprise. This pattern of "culture eating strategy" is most evident at the aggregate scale of industry players, but it also applies to us individually.
The difficulty with addressing this issue is how invisible culture is to each of us. We get captivated by our own cultures. We take them for granted and assume there's nothing to question about their influences on us. It's in that way that they begin to nibble on strategies and eventually eat them for breakfast lunch or dinner.
Strategies for breakfast: The consumer culture is aware it's a new day. With all the new toys and tools buzzing about, it's time for a sunrise breakfast. The glut of innovations, welcomed changes and trends make it easy to devour slightly obsolete product and service strategies with caffeinated gusto. The high churn world of new fads and faces gets easily made into toast.
Strategies for lunch: The incumbent culture of established enterprises, industry standards and barriers-to-entry -- eagerly chows down on start-up strategies for lunch. For incumbents, it's the middle of the day with no sunset anytime soon. The incumbent culture seasons large helpings of new value propositions, business models and market niches with snarky cynicism about what's "realistically" in-demand, marketable and profitable.
Strategies for dinner: The internal, bureaucratic culture of established enterprises consumes their own strategy changes for dinner. The end is near - just as they fear. It's time to dig in their heels and protect their fragile business-as-usual. No cost-cutting, right-sizing or increased efficiencies will pass the test of "invented here" or "good for job security". New strategies are seen as "dead enough to stick a fork in them" before they're ever announced by top execs as "the only way to survive".
With three different cultures functioning as hungry predators, strategy formulation needs some heavy-duty biomimicry in order to survive the jungle out there. Besides the conventional fight or flight, there's camouflage, deterrence, evasion, stalking and coordinated flank attacks.