Last year when the annual 'Culture Eats Strategy' discussion flared up, (Reminder: You are supposed to repeat the phrase 'Culture eats Strategy' for variously breakfast/lunch/dinner/the 3:00AM run to Taco Bell over and over again, even if you don't actually know what it means and have no real way of proving it), I offered a slightly alternative take - that 'Talent', or better and less jargony, 'People' might trump both Cullture and Strategy.
After all, 'people', (remember them?), formulate the business strategy, and shape the culture with their behaviors, actions, interactions, etc. Last year I sort of felt that the silly debate about whether culture was more important that strategy mostly missed the point - without a really dialed-in people or talent pipeline (or factory), it really would not matter how great the culture was/is or how on-point the business strategy seemed on paper.
But it's more fun, especially in blogs and in social media to keep on talking about culture, I get that. So rather than try and make the 'talent' argument again, I wanted to point out (another) recent example of how all things talent - recruiting, development, succession, even something as HR wonkish as the company dress code, are all coming into play as an entire industy, in this case Financial Services, attempts to reinvent itself in the modern age.
Check this excerpt from a recent piece from Business Insider (via Reuters), Banks are Hiring a Bunch of IT Experts, And It's Going to Reshape Wall Street on how the business strategy (moving to a lot more custom-developed IT products and services) is and has to be shaped by a series of HR/Talent programs:
The investment banking industry is heading into a digital revolution that could redraw not only its business model but also the traditional image of its staff.
Stuck with dwindling profits in an era of poor returns and heavy regulation, the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and HSBC are battling to hire the best software programmers, systems engineers and data analysts, to help them get ahead via new technology and cost-cutting.
With IT expertise now a must for the boardroom, banks' conservative workplaces are likely to undergo cultural change as they welcome ambitious, differently-minded people. "Traditionally, banks have been a lot more narrow in their (hiring) focus. Now collectively they have realized the need to be more creative," said Jeffrey Wallis, managing partner at SunGard Consulting Services, specializing in financial firms.
But the latest wave of technology hires has come about because banks are aiming more specifically to grow revenues by developing tailor-made products and mobile applications based on clients' trading patterns. To do that, they need to attract the top quantitative analysts and software developers - which may mean allowing some of them to work in shorts and tee-shirts from Palo Alto, California, rather than in suit and tie from a skyscraper in London's Canary Wharf.
There's more of the same in the piece, particularly on how some recent and high-profile external executive hires into the financial services industry have what are best described as 'traditional' IT backgrounds, rather than a twenty year career in banking or finance. Addtionally, the financial services firms need to 'seek out' this new kind of talent is highlighted - and how it is even driving decisions around company office locations - with Palo Alto, Tel Aviv, and Singapore just some of the tech centers where they are opening up shop to chase tech talent.
The point of all this, and dredging up the tiresome Culture v. Strategy meme?
It's that the culture argument continually neglects the role that talent plays in organizational success - in executing the business strategy and then in turn creating the type of culture that will attact and allow the right talent to achieve that success. The story about how the financial services industry is attempting to move laterally to embrace new technology and the types of people that can create these technologies is only partially one about culture.
It is mostly about identifying the talent needed to execute on the strategy, and developing HR/Talent strategies to deliver that talent.