Why Company Culture As You Know It Is Dead

on November 9, 2017

Company culture has been one of the most defining characteristics of organizations over the past 30 years—shaping the actions, values and behaviors you want to see within your walls, and equally as important, supporting the execution of your business strategy in the marketplace.

Initially, a company’s culture was intended to last the lifespan of the organization. Not today! Today, change is one of the only guarantees we can plan for—and this applies to your culture too. Company cultures must change to reflect societal trends, shifts in the marketplace including customers, competition and innovation, and more.

The Reincarnation of Company Culture

What do you do when you have an amazing culture, but have to adjust your strategy to better anticipate (then meet and exceed) market trends and customer needs? You need to ask yourself if the culture—the one you know and love—is the right one to support the new strategy. Odds are, you’ll need to change your culture too so it ladders up to the strategy you’ve set in place. You’ll have to let go of yesterday’s success to create tomorrow’s victory.

While we must be ready to shift gears faster and more frequently than ever, there is a constant to focus on. Your purpose. Your purpose—your why—should serve as your guiding light. Because despite the changes that every business must adjust to on a daily basis, to be successful, you must never abandon the reason why your company exists.

How Nintendo Stays True to Its Purpose Amidst Change

Nintendo’s purpose has always stood for entertainment. The company was founded in 1889—yes, that’s 1889—and first produced playing cards. But as the world shifted from in-person to digital gaming, Nintendo shifted too. Throughout it all, Nintendo continued its purpose as an entertainment organization, seguing the products and services offered to meet the changing interests, needs and demands of its tech-savvy customers.

So be like Nintendo! Ask yourself, “What are we willing to give up or change to remain true to our purpose?” The most successful organizations are making adjustments to their strategy and their culture on an ongoing basis. It’s the only way to remain competitive.

Three Tips to Achieving Culture Change

Tip #1: Use purpose as your North Star.

While strategy and company culture should be fluid, your purpose should stand the test of time. Make your purpose broad enough to weather technological advances, clear enough to set you apart from the competition and strong enough to rally your troops to support the organization through change. Answering the question of why you exist isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.

Tip #2: Adjust your strategy to change with the times.

You need to do more than simply respond to the marketplace. You need to build a strategy that keeps you ahead of the curve. You must anticipate your customer’s needs and be one step ahead of the competition. Are customers using a new technology or app? Revise your strategy, putting an emphasis on R&D so you can quickly integrate that technology into your products and/or services before anyone else. Facing new demands from shoppers? Adjust your strategy to arm your frontline with the tools, skills and knowledge they need to make your CX better than the best out there.

With each and every shift, let people know why the change is necessary for big picture success and what it means to them. When you’re detailed about what actions and behaviors you’re looking for and what winning looks like, you’re likely to have everyone on board.

Tip #3: As you shift strategy, adjust your company culture too.

 If your strategy changes, you must adjust your culture so the actions and behaviors you want to see within your organization reflect the new roadmap. But, don’t just announce a strategic change and expect people to automatically adjust their behaviors to create a culture that supports the new direction. Start at the top! Once leaders set the tone, demonstrating the actions and behaviors you want to see, your people will follow their example.

Change Your Company Culture to Meet the Changing Times

Want to stay in business? Then say “yes” to change. Your strategy—and the culture that enables your people to execute it successfully—must change if you want a shot at staying ahead of customer needs and marketplace trends. Let your purpose—your why—guide your organization through the inevitable shifts, turns and challenges. Your purpose, not your culture or your strategy, is your new constant.

We are living in a world where change is inevitable and ever-present. Strategy, culture, products and services will change over time. Purpose and change are the only constants. Are you ready?


  • Karel Sovak

    Your headline is a misnomer; company culture has and always will be about the people in the organization. It centers on mission, vision and shared values. To say that is dead, is wrong. While companies should always look to adapt to changes in the eco system in which they serve – they should never stray from their mission, vision and values. As Peter Drucker noted, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and that means your best laid strategy will not survive if you don’t have a strong culture. People are the culture.

  • Macca

    Sorry mate but this article is way off the mark in many regards – on target in some others. Culture as you (don’t) define it is not culture at all and so I have to say I agree 100% with Karel Slovak’s comment a day ago. Your headline is poorly chosen. Now I rate the work you guys do but this is inaccurate so would lie to see a little more research – what do you think Organisational Culture is? How about a definition?

  • I am so happy to see that this blog has stirred up some debate. As usual, I have received more direct emails than comments on my blog posting but this post has evoked an unusually high level of responses and there is NOT alignment on the issue. I want to offer more clarity and details on my observations from the marketplace
    and hope to hear more from you.

    The crux of my blog was to challenge the notion that a company’s culture should remain constant. Business agility is a requirement for survival and the actions, behaviors and yes, even the values that made our people and companies successful in the past are not necessarily those that will make us successful tomorrow. I don’t believe culture is dead, just dead as we know it.

    I see culture as the thing that supports strategy (I agree with Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”) and strategy brings a company’s mission, vision or purpose to life. While vision or purpose are meant to endure over time, the strategy needs to change based on a changing marketplace. With these strategic changes often comes a need for new actions and behaviors (and sometimes values). Company culture is very much alive and I am seeing company culture change to support the new strategies required to fulfill the long-term mission, vision and purpose.

    Let me know what you think, this is a great conversation so keep your questions and comments coming.

    Gary Magenta


Developing Leaders and Managers
Implementing Strategy
Employee Engagement