"Culture eats strategy for breakfast," according to a famous quote attributed to Peter Drucker.
There is a lot of room to quibble there, starting with whether Drucker ever said this. Strategy, obviously, is vitally important and frequently misunderstood. Too often, when leaders talk about strategy, they are really discussing procedures or vision or something else. (Richard Rumelt's book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, which I'm currently reading, makes this point brilliantly.)
And yet, in at least two ways, the wisdom of Drucker's observation stands up--which is why you'll see it turn up elsewhere in this issue.
For starters, a culture is going to be there whether you plan it or not. Many companies treat workplace culture as something that just happens. That omission isn't necessarily fatal, but it often means wasted energy and disengaged employees.
Second, you can have the smartest strategy in your industry and still have a miserable workplace. Who needs that? And, as our annual Best Workplaces survey demonstrates, there are plenty of companies that turn a great workplace culture into a massively successful business.
Good business leaders know how to adapt to their location, key employees, industry, and other variables. As you will see in our package, what works for the employees of the cybersecurity firm IntelliGenesis--where nearly all the workers need government security clearances--won't be the same as what works for sock company Bombas. There isn't a single formula that works for every company.
Or is there? The quest is on to discover if there is some fundamental blueprint to create satisfied workers. Editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan profiles the leadership coaching firm BetterUp. Working with psychologists like Martin Seligman, the company is trying to scientifically determine what makes for an engaged workforce. It's a little early to report definitive results, but the lessons in Buchanan's story are a good investment of any manager's time--even if you can't eat them for breakfast.