Sir Steve Lancashire is Chair of Forum Strategy’s National #TrustLeaders CEO network. Here is his latest monthly article for our members and partners.
Three recent events turned my thoughts to the subject of this month’s blog. The first was Forum Strategy’s fifth annual national CEO conference which I found really uplifting, the theme of ‘hope’ being well timed and well-pitched. There was just the right dose of realism about the complex issues facing us all and the right amount of optimism about our ability to meet these challenges. The range of speakers, the subjects they touched upon and the different organisations they work for started me thinking about how organisations in different sectors operate, what makes them different but also what connects them.
Three of the speakers referred to the culture of their organisations and how ’it’ was an enabler for what they were trying to achieve, whether that be CEO of a multi-national charity such as Oxfam, CEO of one of the largest market research companies, Ipsos UK or CEO of an amazing charity, Save a Child, born out of the herculean efforts of an extraordinary person. It was from Kelly Beaver, from Ipsos UK & Ireland, that we heard the first direct reference to culture in her use of Peter Drucker’s now famous quote ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’.
“The range of speakers, the subjects they touched upon and the different organisations they work for started me thinking about how organisations in different sectors operate, what makes them different but also what connects them.”
The second event was a phone call last week with a close friend experiencing difficulties at work and needing a supportive ear and good advice. He works in a branch of a well-known chemist’s chain and was describing to me some of the issues he is having with his line manager, some of the challenges of working with colleagues he feels undermine him and finally, that he dreads going to work and if he didn’t need the paycheque, would get out at once. ‘It’s such a toxic culture, Steve,’ he said, ‘I need to find a new job’.
The third event involved words coming out of my own mouth. The Times Ed. interviewed me last week for an upcoming profile they are going to run, a kind of exit interview from the sector. It’s a glance back at the academy trust sector that was and a look forward to what is coming, interlaced with personal anecdotes and stories. One of the questions was ‘What makes REACh2 successful, what was the biggest thing you got right?’ My answer to the second question came unequivocally and instinctively. ‘I got the culture right’ I said. In hindsight, I’m rather glad the journalist didn’t ask me to elucidate or expand too much as I don’t think I’d have been happy with my on-the-spot answer. Given that I ‘d said this with conviction though, and ‘culture’ had come up in two other contexts, it did prompt me to give it more serious thought. ‘Does culture really eat strategy for breakfast?’