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Contrasting Views on Culture vs. Strategy Debate

Robert Regis Hyle | April 08, 2014

So how important is the culture surrounding a company, particularly one that is on the wrong end of the mergers and acquisitions chain? I recently interviewed two insurance industry professionals and they had different views on the subject.

Rob McIsaac, a principal with Novarica, is a strong believer in culture, citing the Peter Drucker quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast every time.”

McIsaac makes a good case for culture.

“If the strategy is to run those systems and operations for a period of time or if your strategy is going to wipe the place out, that can influence what companies are going to do,” he says. “Going in and saying it’s my way or the highway is likely going to mean a lot of people head for the highway at exactly the wrong time you are trying to get control of the situation.”

Rick Madock of American Family doesn’t disagree with McIsaac, but he points out that people need to worry about their place in corporate America before the new bosses come in the door.

“I believe in the importance of employees and being socially responsible to their careers, but we don’t always get to make that choice,” he says. “If your business is not providing [customers] ease of doing business, transparency, and a customer centric approach, they are going to find that somewhere else. There are too many opportunities in the market. I think business processes need to be aligned with customer expectations or you have a much bigger problem on your hands than laying off a few people.”

Ironically, Madock holds a master’s degree from the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont University, so he understands the importance of a healthy working culture, but as he points out, individuals also need to take responsibility for their station in life.

“The only way to sustain employment is to be a part of the best possible company in the marketplace and serve customers beyond their expectations,” he says. “If you can do those two things you are probably going to be successful and make opportunities for employees they’ve never had before. If you don’t constantly reinvent yourself and adapt to the environment you are going to watch yourself shrivel away.”

Too many companies—and employees—need an attitude adjustment. The idea that they cannot be replaced should have disappeared a long time ago. The real truth, though, is that people can make themselves invaluable with their current company or the next one that comes along by staying focused on what they are doing and what they could possibly be doing better.


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