Culture Eats Strategy

Impact on Disruptive Change Programs


Darci Prado, PhD
Minas Gerais, Brazil

Renata Kalid
Minas Gerais, Brazil


Russell Archibald
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico



The above title was borrowed from Peter Drucker, but perfectly fits the project management environment. The purpose of this paper is to show the influence of culture on the evolution of an organization’s project management skills. The authors were awakened to the importance of the theme “culture” in their maturity research conducted in Brazil since 2005. The Prado-PMMM maturity model contains 5 levels. The vast majority of Brazilian organizations are at the initial levels of maturity (1 and 2). In this text, initially the authors analyze the difficulties to reach level 3 (“Standardized”) and also to go to level 4 (“Managed”). Then, analyzing in depth the difficulties to move to these two levels, it was discovered that the “organizational culture” aspect is present. This text addresses, in an introductory level, some concepts of culture and a case that shows how culture can impact the evolution of management. It also addresses critical aspects to be observed in project management to minimize such effects.


In the last 12 years we have worked with the Maturity Research in Project Management (http://www.maturityresearch.com/) and as consultants of FALCONI – Result Consultants(www.falconi.com), which enabled us to follow hundreds of Brazilian organizations. The Prado-PMMM model measures the maturity of a department of an organization on a scale of 1 to 5, with levels 4 and 5 being the so-called “threshold of excellence”. So it’s only natural that organizations want to reach this level. According to KERZNER (2006), an organization spends 7 years to reach the plateau of excellence (Figure 1).

Figure 1: According to Kerzner, 7 years have been spent to reach the level of excellence (levels 4 and 5)

One thing that stands out in the eyes of those who analyze the results of the research over the last 12 years is that only a small group of organizations has managed to reach this level. For example, in the 2014 survey, when 435 organizations participated, only 12.7% of them were at the level of excellence (Figure 2), as shown on www.maturityresearch.com.We still have a group of organizations that have not yet reached the level of excellence, but, by the pace of evolution, everything leads one to believe that they will succeed. Between 2010 and 2016 our attention was focused on these organizations, as they became a benchmark. We interviewed several of them.

Figure 2: In the 2014 survey, only 12.7% of the organizations were at the level of excellence (levels 4 and 5)

From 2014 our attention has turned also to those organizations that do not evolve. This group is somewhat heterogeneous. Here we have organizations that, for various reasons, know that they will not reach the level of excellence and accept it peacefully. There are even cases of regression at maturity. However, we note that some organizations would love to evolve and unfortunately can not. Many park in level 2 or, if they can reach level 3, they do not leave. For them, the obstacles to this walk are much more difficult than expected. Then a question arises naturally: what is the cause of this? Why a strong and sustained effort by high administration cannot overcome the difficulties and leads many organizations to accept, unwillingly, to live with a situation of poor performance?

An analysis of this question initially points out that the reasons vary greatly depending on the type of organization (private, governmental or third sector), the category of projects (construction, T.I., etc.) and the moment the organization is living. A conclusion that always seemed right to us is that something was missing. Parallel with the benchmark organizations, we believed that the effort should have been greater (including greater discipline, better tools), leadership should have been more proactive, senior management support should have been better, etc.

It was only when we started interacting with professionals from other disciplines in our consulting firm that we discovered that the above conclusion is superficial. We realize that the same problem exists in many areas of almost every organization. Or rather, it is not just with project management that this happens, but also with the management of routine operations. We have identified a common cause. And what is the name given to this common cause? Organizational culture.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 11th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in August 2017. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.

About the Authors

Darci Prado, PhD

Minas Gerais, Brazil



Darci Prado, PhD is a partner at FALCONI Consultores de Resultado, Brazil. Bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering from UFMG, postgraduate degree in Economic Engineering from FDC and PhD from UNICAMP. He participated in the establishment of the PMI chapter in Minas Gerais and Paraná, and was a Board member of PMI-MG between 1998-2002. He was the president of Clube IPMA-BH between 2006 and 2008. Author of 10 project management books. Conducts a maturity survey in Brazil and Italy with Russell Archibald since 2005 by the site http://www.maturityresearch.com/.


Renata Henrique Mendes Kalid

Minas Gerais, Brazil



Renata Henriques Mendes Kalid Graduated in Psychology from PUC-MG, Renata used to be with FALCONI Consultores de Resultado for 10 years, responsible for the creation and management of the Corporate University since 2014. Previously, People Development Manager covering Performance Evaluation, Career and Allocation Assessment.Graduated in Management with Emphasis on People by FDC, she worked for 7 years in companies in the beverage and food industries. She began his career at ABInbev, assuming leadership in HR Generalist. Later HR Manager in Andina – Coca-Cola and Danone. Participation in projects of Culture Diagnosis and Leadership Development, with Brazilian and American consultancies.


Russell D. Archibald

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Russell D. Archibald,
PhD (Hon), MScME, BSME, PMP, Fellow PMI and Honorary Fellow APM/IPMA (member of the Board of IPMA/INTERNET 1974-83), held engineering and executive positions in aerospace, petroleum, telecommunications, and automotive industries in the USA, France, Mexico and Venezuela. Since 1982 he has consulted to companies, agencies and development banks in 16 countries on 4 continents. He is the author of Managing High-Technology Programs and Projects, 3rd Edition 2003, also published in Russian, Italian, and Chinese, and has published other books (in English, Italian, Japanese, and Hungarian) and many papers on project management. Web site: http://www.russarchibald.com/