The best graphical representation that I have come across for an organisation is that of an iceberg. Above the surface is the visible part of the organisation – including the strategy, the organisation chart and the processes and procedures. Below the water (the larger part of the organisation) lies the intangibles – the culture, the people, the relationships. These elements cannot be easily written down but they have the potential to destabilise the organisation.
Culture will eat strategy for breakfast; a famous statement with a high degree of truth. Organisations can develop the most sophisticated strategy but without an attempt to understand the implications of culture will invariably lead to the failure of that strategy. Culture is made up of the beliefs and values of the members of an organisation; it shapes the behaviours, norms and actions that govern what gets done and, more importantly, what does not get done. Leaders that fail to understand this – and fail to take it into account – are dooming their strategy from the start.