Vision vs. Culture

Posted: September 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

I once heard it said that “Culture eats Vision for lunch, every time!” It is an interesting statement to consider, as it says to us that no matter what we say or what we hope for; no matter how grand or inspiring the vision, our actions carry such weight that our teams will never hear what we say. In fact, when our actions don’t line up with our words, it can have a very detrimental impact to our credibility in the organization. Culture is where the rubber meets the road!

Since I am a firm believer that words matter, I would like to begin by defining what I mean by culture and vision.

Culture is defined as “the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.,” or “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.” For the purposes of the discussion here, we will stick to the second definition with one slight modification. I am referring to the culture of a company, so the definition that will be used is-

The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular company, department, or individual.”

Vision is defined as-

The act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be.”

So to put it simply, culture is the behaviors and beliefs that exist within our company, department, or individual. This is the how we act, either as an organization or individuals within that organization. The culture is the heartbeat of the organization. It is how we treat each other, how we solve problems, how we deal with performance issues, and how we develop our team members, for example.

Vision, on the other hand, is the picture of what we want our organizations to become; where we want to go. Leaders within the organization survey the current landscape and develop a vision of the future landscape. Then they communicate that via annual meetings, round tables, and other communication mediums. Visions are often encompassed in an organization’s mission statement and brought to life through specific plans and actions.

So when we make the statement, “Culture eats Vision for lunch, every time!” what we are in fact saying is that no matter how strong a vision or mission statement we as leaders may have, if our behaviors and actions don’t support it, the vision will get “eaten.” This is the old analogy “do as I say, not as I do.” The problem with that statement is that our Team Members see through that and our credibility is damaged.

Next time I’ll talk about how a vision gets developed, adopted and communicated, ultimately bringing the vision to life through a changed culture.

Hope to see you back!


Reflection – Will you be someone that adds value to others? How can you you add value today to those you come in contact?


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