Publications SIBE (1-5)

Why should Strategy and Culture have breakfast together?

"Culture will eat Strategy for breakfast" is a well-known phrase attributed to Peter Drucker. Many managers have heard this phrase repeatedly, however, in real life they often forget about the strong relationship between Strategy and Culture: strategy development is done at the very top, and the development of organizational culture is entrusted to HR specialists. The strategy is carefully discussed and agreed upon by the Board of Directors, while missing that a change in strategy will almost certainly require a change in employee behavior. The top officials of the organization are not always involved in issues related to the development and change of organizational culture, although a lot depends on their participation.

The fundamental problem associated with corporate culture is that culture is secondary to the strategy of the organization. This means that with a change in the company's strategy, its corporate culture must change, if this does not happen, the strategy risks being "eaten for breakfast" ... or for dinner. The strategy sets the formal logic of actions and the main guidelines for employees. Culture, in turn, puts strategic goals into shared values, which are embodied in demonstrated behavior and perseverance in achieving the strategic goals set.

In order to put Strategy and Culture at the same table, the program "EMBA in Russian" of the Faculty of International MBA Programs Kingston/RANEPA uses a special method that is used when studying the courses "Strategic Management" and "Organization and People" - to begin with, both courses are within the framework of a single training module, thereby emphasizing the interconnection of areas.

Business schools are often criticized for an excess of theory and a lack of practice. The Kingston/RANEPA method is a balance of theory and practice, where practical knowledge naturally takes precedence. But why is it important to study, including theory? The fact is that management theory is the quintessence of many practical situations, projects, cases, on the basis of which conclusions and generalizations are made. This part of the Strategic Management course at the EMBA program is taught by Sergey Chumak, a management consultant with extensive experience in business consulting and working as an independent director in many Russian and foreign companies.

Next to practice. Ilya Yakubson, Strategy Advisor at X5 Retail Group, President of the Association of Russian Retailers, continues the conversation about the strategy. Ilya is a rare case when a business practitioner is also an excellent teacher who fills the previously plowed field of theory with grains of practical examples, illustrations, and business solutions. In addition, as part of the course, students perform a group task with an eye on X5 and immediately receive feedback from an experienced manager. The practical value of Ilya Yakubson's course is always assessed by the students at a maximum of 10 points.

It is significant that it is Ilya who starts talking about culture, values, and employee development as part of the Strategic Management course. As an experienced and successful business practitioner, the Strategy-Culture relationship is absolutely obvious to him, although he admits that he has met many managers who think differently. Ilya explains why the mission is important, how it works in practice, shares his observations about the mistakes of competitors: "I know companies that reduce development costs in a crisis, dismiss "expensive" employees. I would like to ask how you will develop the company, withstand competition when the crisis is over – very short-sighted decisions."

It is natural that the module in which Strategy is studied also includes the topics of personnel management and organizational development, which are traditionally associated with Culture. The course "Organization and people" of the EMBA program in Russian offers a look at the processes of personnel management from the position of the first person of the organization: the relationship of Strategic goals and HR practices, architectural configurations of the organization and their features, the role of the leader in shaping the culture of the organization. The teachers of the course, together with the students of the program, debunk the myth that "the culture of the organization is formed by HR" and discuss why this approach will never lead to success.

In this part, practitioners with a pronounced teaching talent join the conversation: Irina Zarina, CEO of SHL (the company has a unique international expertise in creating competency models, building working systems for personnel evaluation and development); Evgeny Shchepin, Communications Director of Vkusville (the company has, without exaggeration, revolutionized retail, has an authentic corporate culture, does "everything a little differently"). That is, now existing HR practices speak about why it is important to be aware of the company's mission, or how, for example, the vision of Andrey Krivenko, the founder of Vkusville, is still invisibly present in what employees do, having actually become the DNA of the company.

The unique know-how of the Kingston/RANEPA program in the study of strategic management consists in a verified combination of theory and practice, attracting really interesting, successful, talented practical managers to teaching, who have seen from their own experience that Strategy and Culture should have breakfast together and now teach themselves what they believe in.

Author of the publication:

Marina Shermet
Director of the Executive Education Center
Faculty of International MBA Programs Kingston/RANEPA