Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

“Culture eats Strategy (change) for breakfast” – dirty secret? Solutions (Part 1)

It is a ‘dirty secret’:

(a) strategies assume a “ready” culture but existing cultures are almost NEVER “ready” for transformational change
(b) lip service is paid to culture change
(c) attempts to force ROI fall short or the initiative fails altogether
(d) the culture becomes more resistant to change

Is this Groundhog Day? How can we break this vicious cycle?

This old worry nagged last December, as I mulled over the challenges of the recession and the risks that would accompany the recovery. To see what other experienced practitioners were thinking I posted Discussions in two LinkedIn Groups – these are still running so if you are on LinkedIn drop by and comment:

  • One of LinkedIn’s deepest pools of Change Management talent, “Organizational Change Practitioners” with over 15K practitioners from around the world
  • The Strategic Leadership Forum’s Group – growing quickly and representing strategists, planners and forward thinkers

The question posed was deliberately open – as posted in Organizational Change Practitioners:

“Culture eats strategy (change) for breakfast”. True? Are our current organizational cultures up for the strategies of 2011?
What do we do when organization culture ‘challenges’ our change initiative but culture was never raised in the business case or in the initial Program scoping? Do we attempt to force the implementation in spite of the culture issues or talk about the elephant in the room?”

Many of us have learned to recognize that this is one of the most nefarious and complex challenges we can face in a transformational change.


The responses were overwhelming – we are all conscious of this problem, many have developed ways of having this conversation with Leaders and Sponsors of change but few have cracked the nut.

Over the next couple of weeks, interspersed with various other inspirations, I will run a series of guest posts from some very bright minds (with their permission) on this topic. I hope that you will follow along and that these posts will help to foster conversations in your organizations that will root your strategies more successfully. You can subscribe to this blog via your email account at the top left of the page or just check back from time to time.

A summary of the 37 years’ of research and successful engagement of our Firm is captured in the white paper: “Corporate Culture and Its Impact on Strategic Change”. You can download a version from our website here (you’ll have to register then it is with the rest of the white papers).

If you have a Strategy that is a business imperative and would like to discuss the approaches we have implemented successfully for other Fortune 100 companies it would be a pleasure to connect – you can reach me at .

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Way to go, Gail, great to see someone consolidate our inputs from Linked-in and make sense via solutions.

Comment by TODD

You are right. There were so many bright people in those groups. Some comments in particular lent themselves to excerpting. Some comments were more dynamic and I have invited those authors to write up a summary to post. Would you be interested? Gail

Comment by Gail Severini ©

[…] “Culture eats Strategy (Change) for breakfast” – Dirty secret? Solutions.  Part 1 […]

Pingback by “Culture is like the fundamental laws of physics” guest post Olivier Riviere. “Culture eats Strategy” series – Part 2 « Change Whisperer – Gail Severini's Blog ©

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