If you’ve ever been involved in a conversation about organizational culture, there’s a good chance that someone, maybe even you, referenced this popular quote from management guru Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It’s the go-to reference for organizational culture because it’s such a fitting description of an organization’s biggest challenge to successfully execute its business strategy.

Unfortunately, many leaders are a bit jaded about initiatives designed to change the organizational culture. Let’s face it: Most of us have had previous experiences with initiatives that didn’t result in changing the way people behaved or the way they did their work. Evolving an organization’s culture takes time, and leaders play a critical role in shaping the behaviors that influence cultural change.

Driving a change in culture is much easier to do when there are positive culture forces and when strategic priorities are in sync. In Forrester’s State Of Customer Obsession Survey, 2022, 70% of organizational decision-makers called improving customer experience a critical priority over the coming year. When priorities are aligned around the customer, not only is it easier to influence cultural change, but it also accelerates an organization’s opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. For marketing leaders, customer obsession is also at the heart of successful organizational design.

In today’s B2B environment, to surpass the competition, companies must put the customer at the center of their entire operating model ­— structure, talent, culture, metrics, processes, and technologies. That’s what it takes to be truly customer-obsessed. Although all of these operating levers correlate to customer obsession, however, organizational culture correlates the most, so that’s a great place to start. Forrester has identified six things B2B functional leaders can do to initiate a shift or continue their evolution toward a customer-obsessed culture.

  1. Understand the existing culture. The first step is to understand your culture and how to work within it. Cultures can be deeply embedded; you can’t become customer-obsessed if you try to abruptly abandon what you already have.
  2. Connect customer experience to corporate values. Determine what you stand for as a company, and create customer interactions that align with your values. Think of this as demonstrating your brand or corporate promise through experiences.
  3. Model behaviors. Your behaviors and actions as leaders have the most influence and impact on culture.
  4. Link business objectives to behaviors. Well-intentioned culture transformations often fail because employees don’t know how adherence to values will translate into better job performance and results.
  5. Reward success. It’s likely that you already have some employees who are doing the right things. Recognizing those things can be a powerful force for change. It highlights that the organization already has a foundation to build on and makes a cultural change seem less daunting.
  6. Measure. Select key performance metrics to evaluate progress. Organizations need the ability to measure the cultural change.

A cultural transformation is a long-term initiative. It won’t happen overnight, but B2B leaders can begin to influence a powerful change. Culture doesn’t have to eat your strategy for breakfast.