Culture eats strategy for breakfast: five key takeaways

Christopher Arbid | 12 February 2020

In late January this year, our industrial practice hosted renowned speaker and one of big oil’s key personalities, John Carey (previous CEO ADNOC Distribution, Castrol and VP Strategy at BP) to talk to guests about the key facets behind the phrase “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” – a term coined to emphasise the importance of a powerful and empowering culture as the route to organisational success.

From the lively discussion, five clear takeaways emerged as key priorities when talking about culture vs. strategy:

Walk the talk but also talk the walk

Do what you say you will, whilst also being the change you want to see in your company. In other words, tackle your own behaviour first, before communicating these changes to your workforce. That way, you can establish some “street cred” before you ask your employees to take on the new changes too.

It is much harder to transform from within

Senior managers often bring their own biases when reviewing the operational structure and human capital within a business. To this end, John mentioned that he often brought in external consultants in order to obtain an impartial and neutral point of view to any transformation project.

Innovation not valued as much as in year performance

With many businesses focusing on fortnightly, monthly and quarterly reports and fiscal gains, the longer term benefits of innovation are still largely being ignored. It’s incredibly difficult for CEOs to have a medium to long term view on change and transformation, as even a short-term reduction in profits is seen as less than ideal. However, companies need to start investing in innovation – and people that have innovation mindsets – in order to set them apart and out-compete their peers – even if the innovation cycle does not show immediate bottom line results.

EQ vs IQ

Of course, there is no doubt that in order to be a good engineer one needs to have a high IQ. This is often the cornerstone to achieving any career goals in this industry. However, an often forgotten element in becoming a leader of engineers is EQ – which can frequently matter more than your IQ. While a high IQ will give you the ability to manage ideas, knowledge and thoughts, EQ will give you the ability to manage relationships with other people which is incredibly important. There are a large number of business leaders who lack what is fundamentally an essential leadership skill.

Diverse recruitment

Diversity in human capital develops a cohesive culture. It is becoming increasingly clear that diversity leads to better customer service and business development. A workforce that is a genuine reflection of their customers supports a deeper understanding of their needs. Ultimately, this increases the opportunities to provide them with real value through connection.

This topic is especially relevant for us at New Street Consulting Group. Having provided tailored human capital solutions for almost two decades, we understand the importance of having the right people in your organisation to achieve your company goals and deliver ROI. Across our service lines of executive search, interim management, leadership assessment, agile talent solutions and executive coaching we’ve seen first-hand the ability of visionary talent to completely transform the trajectory of an organisation.

We’d like to thank John Carey for joining us and sharing his knowledge.


Christopher Arbid is the energy markets practice lead at New Street Consulting Group. If you’d like to discuss how we can help you achieve your potential, please get in touch.

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