Boxing Gloves Or Canoes

In a webinar we conducted for over 100 different professionals last week on the topic of growth strategy, we wrestled through the age-old debate that argues whether organizations should be heavily or even, exclusively focused towards culture or strategy as tools to move their businesses forward.

Before we start, let me ask you – have you put more emphasis on strategy or culture in your organization?  Do you feel as if one is more important than the other or are they mutually critical?

What or who has had the most influence in shaping your thoughts on the topic?

The analogy that positions strategy and culture as a collision between top heavyweights in a boxing match, with a clear winner and loser is simply poor guidance for the modern-day organization.  Following this advice will undoubtedly back your organization into a corner.

Starting today, I want you to think of strategy and culture in your business being less of a collision and more of a fusion.  The more appropriate visual is the canoe.  If you’ve ever had to navigate a canoe down a winding, obstacle-heavy river, you know how important it is that the bow and the stern are synchronized.

Picture this canoe as your organization and the river as your specific niche or industry in which you operate.  Think of the paddler in the bow as your culture, providing power to your business.  Whereas the stern is your strategy, requiring a steady rudder or guide to help navigate the vessel.  When the bow and the stern (culture and strategy) are working together, the canoe is very effective in creating forward movement.  Or, better yet – when culture defines how you act, strategy tells us where we will end up if we act ‘that way’.

Conversely, if you decided to put more weight in one end of the boat or the other, you’re almost forced to rely on the river current, brute force and heroic acts to navigate the vessel.  In an external environment littered with obstacles and unpredictability (like a river), you’re likely to end up adrift or stuck.  Trying to choose one without the other is equally frustrating – in other words, if you don’t have power, you’re motionless, and if you are without steering, your directionless.

Symptoms of having ‘too much weight’ in one end of the boat or other can range from high turnover, indecisiveness, customer churn, fear of the unknown across the external environment, as well as stagnant revenue and profit growth (aka the ‘plateau’).

Maybe the big question then,…aside from obvious forward movement, how do you know when you have strategy and culture in sync?

The best way to answer this question might lie in an examination of your employees and customers……when their affinity to you is not only because of how you’re treating them, but also a result of where you’re taking them.

So…it’s time to take off the gloves and grab the paddles.

You’ll be amazed at what happens when there is a fusion between strategy and culture in your organization.


Yes, there is a much deeper dive to this topic, which we plan to address in an upcoming article.  I will take you to the whiteboard with me and we can walk the vital components of strategy and culture, what they are, how to build them, where they intersect, and how they need to integrate for optimal effectiveness. 

You can get free access to the webinar recording here.  When you do, you’ll automatically qualify for two free strategy gifts.  In this 60 minute video, we walk you through our Growth Strategy Wheel™, along with over 20 business-building tools you can gain access to right away.

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Founder Todd Garreston

With over 15 years of experience leading market share growth initiatives of top consumer brands in Fortune 500 and privately-held business environments, Todd Garretson advises and helps organizations identify new growth potential, craft strategy that moves people to action and enhance overall performance.

Having a passion for helping people and organizations to unlock dormant growth potential, Todd writes and speaks for audiences in three core areas: business growth strategy, leadership and personal / professional growth.

Residing in Atlanta, GA with his wife, Lauri, and their four children, weekends and free time are spent with family, coaching youth sports, and sharing his passion for fitness and nutrition.