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Culture eats strategy for lunch. Every time, everywhere

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

You may have heard the expression, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

It’s a widespread concept in many management circles and was even the title of a book. Some give credit for coining the concept to the management guru Peter Drucker, but I suspect it goes back much further. Henry Ford is said to have followed it. Alexander the Great probably had an early version.

It relates to much of what I often tell owners and managers in all types of businesses and organizations. And yes, it definitely relates to medical office management.

The logic is this: No matter how brilliant your BIG PLAN is, you must have an environment, a culture, that supports it. Without that culture, your BIG PLAN will end up being just another stack of papers on a shelf somewhere. You may hold a lot of long meetings about the plan. You may put up posters and develop other types of support. But unless it’s ingrained in how your office operates, it’s not going far.

I’ve written extensively on the engagement of your employees. You may recall the Gallagher Organization, which finds that in the typical work group approximately 25 percent of staff are engaged, 15 percent are disengaged, and 60 percent are neither engaged nor disengaged.

The 15 percent who are disengaged will actually work against you, against the organization and its culture. Sometimes you can turn one around, convert them.

They’re often intelligent and potentially productive, but for numerous reasons they chose to be predominantly negative, and bring a negative influence to the office. Your best bet is often to remove them. An amicable separation is preferable, but sometimes they must go, amicably or not.

In some ways, the most difficult group to deal with is comprised of those in the middle: the 60 percent who are neither disengaged nor truly engaged. A good tactic is to—once again—remove the negative influences. As the proportion of engagement increases, this middle group will tend to go with the flow. This may be slow at first, but as you increase the general office engagement, those in the middle will tend to follow the majority.

There are a number of important considerations that follow these observations. For example, employee moral cannot always be catered to, but it should be kept in mind with most, if not all decisions. That doesn’t mean policies and procedures must constantly meet staff approval, but if an action is likely to meet resistance or cause resentment, then the reasons for it should be carefully communicated, especially to those identified as staff leaders or opinion makers.

A good example might be changes or unpleasant economies made necessary by a modification in some payment process—one of those insurance or government changes that seem to happen with annoying regularity. You might assume that everyone in the office understands these changes and why they are necessary.

Don’t bet on it. Take the time needed to explain these changes and the reason for them, perhaps even using illustrations or graphs. Keep things simple—this isn’t a Hollywood production and you’re probably not a producer. Providing a clear picture of why something is necessary can literally be worth a thousand words.

This is but a simple example, and you’ll confront many variations, but keep these ideas in mind when trying to make a plan work. What’s most important in dealing with considerations of office culture is to first recognize its very importance. You always need good strategies, but remember to build a good culture where your strategies can thrive.

Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit or call (913) 927-0229.

The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.









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