A few weeks ago I posted about the ongoing discussions on the relative importance of three distinct, but interrelated aspects of organizations (Talent/Strategy/Culture) that combine to define, set the direction, and ultimately determine the success or failure of the enterprise. In that piece, I proposed it might be that Talent, or perhaps worded differently, people capability, might actually trump both Culture and Strategy as being the primary determinant or most accurate predictor of ongoing success.
The theory, (it probably actually doesn't deserve to labelled a 'theory', perhaps 'notion' is a better term), is that without the raw talent, the right people with the right skills in place, that even the best company cultures can't progress from being 'fun' or 'happy' into truly successful, and also that the sharpest most on-point business strategies can't be executed. Why I think I like this idea so much is due all the time I spend watching sports, specifically the NBA, where perhaps more so than many other team sports, sheer talent more often than not plays a disproportionate role in driving wins and championships.
In the NBA, teams that win titles almost always have one (or more), of the league's most talented players, the kinds of players that can essentially take over in close games, can rally the team by setting an example for effort and dedication, and help to make the other players around them better, by virtue of their sheer ability. Essentially to win in the NBA, you need superior talent. It doesn't mean you will win of course, (see Heat, Miami - 2011 NBA Finals), but without it, the best team spirit, (culture), and coaching, (strategy), will only take you as far as the talent can carry you.
While culture is critical, and strategy is essential, having the talent makes it all work, makes the culture rise to more than a 'oh look how cure, there's a foosball table in the break room', and elevates the strategy from just words on a PowerPoint or a tagline on a website.
So how do you go about landing that essential, superstar talent you need? Dang, that's a problem.
Well, having a fantastic company culture helps. Great talent wants to be in a place that they feel will challenge them, where they sense a greater purpose, and can learn from and engage with great colleagues. And it really helps to actually be a successful company already, or to have a story, (a strategy even), that resonates and can be envisioned, and that great talent can see themselves as a part of. Yep, it is kind of hard to attract and retain great talent without a great culture and a winning strategy.
Which I think is the reason why all these Culture vs. Strategy vs. Talent type arguments persist, because no matter what position on the triangle you take you are right.
And also wrong.